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The latest update as of January 25, 2022


NHRA releases the 2022 Hot Rod Heritage Series schedule


The long awaited NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series schedule for 2022 has just been released, and as expected, it starts and ends at Bakersfield's Famoso Dragstrip. Kicking off just 37 days from now, the 64th annual Good Vibrations Motorsports March Meet is the first of eight races on the calendar. And as has been traditional for as long as the Heritage Series has existed, the season finale is back at Bakersfield for the 30th annual California Hot Rod Reunion, running from October 21 - 23.

In between those dates there are four races for Nostalgia Funny Car, with three of them also featuring Nostalgia Top Fuel cars. After Bakersfield (March 3- 6), the series heads north to Boise, ID's Firebird Raceway for the 51st annual Ignitor Nitro Opener (April 29 - May 1), then east to Bowling Green, KY's Beech Bend Raceway Park for the National Hot Rod Reunion, June 16 - 18. After a mid-summer break, the series returns to Firebird Raceway for the 51st annual Nightfire Nationals, running from August 4 - 7. Before the final race of the season, the racers travel to Tulsa, OK's Osage Casino Tulsa Raceway Park for the Nostalgia Nitro Nationals, September 16 - 17.

There's two other events on the schedule, without the Nitro Nostalgia cars, both happening at Sacramento Raceway for the Group 1 & 2 cars on April 1- 2 (Funny Car Fever), and Sept. 16 - 17 (Governor's Cup). As mentioned earlier, racers in Funny Car will compete for points at six events, while the Top Fuel contingent has five races. Unless they add a caveat to the points scheme, it appears that the ability to waive one of the six events for the Funny Cars has been eliminated. That could definitely put a premium on having a large enough travel budget to maximize points earning opportunities.

More news on the Heritage Series season, including any rules changes, as they develop.


The latest update as of January 23, 2022


What's Next for What's New


2022 Good Vibrations Motorsports March Meet poster


Yes, it's not that long - just six weeks! - until the 2022 edition of the Good Vibrations Motorsports March Meet, held as always, (at least in the last 50+ years) at Famoso Dragway. This year they're back to the regular schedule instead of the "one off" (hopefully) late May edition of 2021. We've applied for credentials for our ace photographer to attend and report for us on the first race on the NHRA Heritage Series schedule, and the most iconic nostalgia drag racing event in the world.

Click on the poster for more information on the event, or to purchase tickets, etc.

PRO Nitro Spring Training


However, before the March Meet, we've got the go-ahead to attend the PRO Nitro Spring Training at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park on the weekend of February 10 - 12. And if all things go well (fingers crossed) we'll have full coverage from the two opening events on the Camping World NHRA Drag Racing Series, starting with the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals (Pomona) and the NHRA Arizona Nationals (Phoenix).

Funny Car Chaos classic


It's going to be a busy start to the 2022 season, but that's only the start as Bob Snyder plans to attend all, or almost all (he might skip the Baton Rouge event) of the FUNNY CAR CHAOS races again, starting with the BIGGEST Funny Car race in the world at the Texas Motorplex in late March. There's also been a large late change in the schedule as the FCC season finale goes back to the Motorplex as part of the second annual Stampede of Speed to make that ten day event even bigger than last year's extravaganza. Looks like quite a season of nitro-powered drag racing is on the agenda.


The latest update as of January 22, 2022

Phoenix Test Session photos

We've got a handful of photos of yesterday's private testing session at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park (Chandler, AZ), where AA/Fuel Altered pilots Dylan Winefsky and Cory Lee each made a couple of runs to test the track surface and their combinations for the 2022 season. We'll post the pictures later today but here's one from the end of a successful day for second generation fuel racer, young Mr. Winefsky as he piloted the "Nitro Moose" (Winefsky Family Racing) altered to an early shutoff 6.257 - 189.12 and a full pass of 6.085 - 236.96 to close out a very successful day for the team.

Nitro Moose warmup in the pits --- Nitro Moose warmup in the pits

Warming up and getting ready for their first passes since last September's United Nitro Funny Cars race at Tucson with son Dylan driving after his father Robert handed him the "keys" to the family hot rod.

Dylan Winefsky - 'Nitro Moose' --- Dylan Winefsky - 'Nitro Moose'

First burnout of 2022!

Dylan Winefsky - 'Nitro Moose' --- Cory Lee - 'Sheepherder'

(LEFT) Launching hard with the front wheels dangling off the starting line, Dylan Winfeskfy drove the "Nitro Moose" to an excellent - out of the box - 6.257 - 189.12 clocking. He was under four seconds at half track (3.999) and his speed at the 660' mark (189.28) was faster than the finish line number. Looking at all the incrementals indicates that the first pass of the day/year would have been as low as 6.05 if he'd stayed on the loud pedal all the way. However, the early shutoff was the plan.

(RIGHT) Running alongside Winefsky while helping to sort out the "Sheepherder" was jack-of-all-trades Cory Lee who was last seen driving Gary Turner's "Pedaler" Nostalgia Funny Car at the California Hot Rod Reunion in October, after a part-time driving gig in the Rhea Goodrich-owned "New Englander" Big Show Nitro Funny Car earlier in the 2021 season.

Cory Lee - 'Sheepherder' --- Cory Lee - 'Sheepherder'

On the left we've got Cory Lee launching on his first pass that went well until he shut off at half track. The photo on the right shows his burnout before the second run and as in the first burnout, there's three cylinders down on the right side as he spins the tires.

Dylan Winefsky - 'Nitro Moose' --- Dylan Winefsky - 'Nitro Moose' (near lane) 
vs Cory Lee - 'Sheepherder' (far lane)

(LEFT) Winefsky lights up the tires as he prepares for a full pass in the 'Moose" alongside Lee in the 'Sheepherder'.

(RIGHT) Leaving together with the throttles wide open and all the pipes clean, with Winfesky on the left and Lee on the right. It didn't stay that way for long though as the 'Sheepherder' put out a few holes early and shut off while Winefsky kept going all the way to the 1320' mark.

Dylan Winefsky scoreboard --- Dylan Winefsky after the run

(LEFT) The scoreboard tells the tale of a run that would be very competitive at the upcoming March Meet, which is where the team is headed in just six weeks. With a 6.00- second index for that class at Bakersfield, the car looks set to challenge for another final round appearance at that event. When Robert was driving, they were runnerup to Ron Capps at the 2020 edition of the Good Vibrations Motorsports March Meet.

(RIGHT) Hot and sweaty and very happy, Winefsky exits the car after his successful run, with his father, and former pilot of the car when it was called the "Coyote Express", standing in the background.

Cory Lee (left) and Dylan Winefsky (right) --- Winefsky family at the end of the day

(LEFT) Back in the pits after their second runs, Cory Lee (left) points to a rising star in the AA/Fuel Altered ranks, Dylan Winefsky (right).

(RIGHT) Before loading up and heading home, the entire "Nitro Moose" team posed with the car for a photo.


The latest update as of January 19, 2022

Changes to the Championship in Top Alcohol Dragster and Funny Car

The 2021 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series season was a virtual patchwork quilt of rescheduled, moved, and cancelled events that concluded with 24 regional and 15 national events. This year's schedule - at least on paper - lists 27 regionals and 15 nationals. Hopefully it won't turn into a "work in progress" as last season was, but we still haven't opened the gates to the first race of the year; that's still four weeks away.

NHRA has made some changes to the points formula for the Top Alcohol competitors, with racers allowed to claim points at the first ten national and six regional events that they attend. From those races, they can claim their best six national and four regional events. This differs from the best seven of ten nationals and best three of five regionals that has been the standard since the 2012 season.

One other, somewhat subtle, but significant change is the "waiving" of points at events. In previous seasons, a racer could waive their points following the conclusion of a race. Obviously, if a racer failed to qualify or lost in an early round, they would routinely waive points from that event. This year, the waiver must be made before "prior to the first pair of cars starting for the first qualifying session if they elect to not claim the event points". That pretty much eliminates that option for the races, unless they have a catastrophic parts failure while warming up for the first qualifying session.

This change to the waiving option may not have much effect on the points chases, but racers wishing to contend for a championship may carefully choose the events they attend, taking into consideration the level of competition they may face. On the other hand, choosing to face their toughest challengers at a certain event may become a strategic decision. In any case, it will be an interesting year of following the championship chases in the Top Alcohol categories.

Top Fuel competition in 2022

While last season saw some new competitors come on the scene, notably Josh Hart and secondarily, Alex Laughlin, and to a lesser extent, Joey Haas (runnerup at the Mile-High Nationals), this year may see a number of returning and upgrading races in the championship fight. Besides the "usual suspects" (the Top Ten racers in 2021), the number of racers capable of competitive, ie. 3.70 - 3.90 elapsed times grew substantially in 2021. From Cameron Ferre - who VERY nearly upset the world champion in the semi-finals at the Auto Club Finals - to Tripp Tatum III who showed up literally out of nowhere at the U.S. Nationals and instantly ran 3.80's, before nearly dropping into the 3.60's at his next race.

Other racers that could make 2022 a season of full and overflowing competitive fields are Tony Schumacher finally back on a full-time basis for the first time since 2018, now with serious long-term sponsorhsip after making eight appearances in the abbreviated 12-race 2020 season. Other possible returnees are Austin Prock (still just a rumour that funding will arrive to put him back in a John Force Racing car), and Doug Foley who's making an all-out effort with a trailer full of new parts, and Aaron Brooks tuning.

Then there's a bunch of racers that will make at least a partial schedule, and could expand to a full tour if sponsorhips allow. In that group are Alex Laughlin in a Scott Palmer car, the previously mentioned Cameron Ferre, and less well-known racers like Greg Carillo (best in 2021 of 3.76 - 321 mph), and Jim Maroney (3.87 - 302 mph), Kyle Wurtzel (3.85 - 313 mph).

One racer that fans would love to see compete more often, T.J. Zizzo, who carded career bests of 3.75 - 329 mph last year in a very abbreviated two race schedule, hopes to be out more often this season. Another racer that could shake things up on the west coast is Brandon Welch who made some waves at the Auto Club Finals with best numbers of 3.84 - 309 mph. And there's a number of others seemingly on the cusp of making it happen, including third-generation TF racer, Krista Baldwin, and half a dozen others with 3-second clockings to their credit.

With the formation of the new TSR team (Tony Stewart Racing), that has Leah Pruett and Matt Hagan competing, the team owner Stewart has earned his Top Fuel license and may compete at a few events close to their Indianapolis base. He would obviously be completely competitive instantly with the team he's assembled backing him. Another racer that could come back after sitting out last season is senior citizen Pat Dakin who has career best numbers of 3.71 - 324.98 mph to his credit and can always be counted on to be competitive. Finally, another fan favourite of previous seasons, Terry "The Insta-Gator" McMillen is coming back, at least on a part-time basis, following today's announcement of a partnership with Canadian TF racer Dan Mercier (whos's got 3.89 - 318 mph numbers to his credit from the 2019 season.

We still haven't seen the entry list for the Winternationals, but it's almost a certainty to be an over-subscribed field as quite a few racers want to hit the ground running as the season schedule returns to a normal event rotation.


The latest update as of January 5, 2022


25th year of Northern Thunder begins

Hard to believe that nearly a quarter of a century has passed since our first venture into the world wide web. Our first post on this page was January 27, 1998 and here's what we wrote that day.


The latest update as of December 24, 2021


Merry Christmas from Northern Thunder

Merry Christmas from NORTHERN THUNDER and best wishes for a Happy New Year in 2022


The latest update as of November 22, 2021


Auto Club NHRA FINALS logo

Our apologies for the lateness of these postings, and the lack of captions, but we have dedicated the next two days to filling in all - or as many as we have time to do - the blanks in our coverage of Auto Club NHRA Finals. We're still waiting to receive photos from Friday and Saturday's qualifying, but first things first, and that's eliminations on Sunday. One we've finished putting up all our photos and text from the event, we will transfer it to the "Features Page" and present it all in a chronological order. Stay tuned for that!


TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER - ROUND TWO ELIMINATIONS

James Stevens (near lane) vs Jackie Fricke 
(far lane) --- Julie Nataas (near lane) vs Mitch Myers 
(far lane)

(LEFT) In the far lane, Jackie Fricke (far lane) picked up the pace from her first round effort, dipping back into the 5-teens with a very strong 5.190 - 278.92 to put the blown alcohol car of James Stevens (near lane) in the trailer. Stevens gave it a good try with a solid 5.298 - 271.95 but was well back of Fricke at the finish line.

(RIGHT There was just one Meyer Racing car in attendance as Rachel Meyer had already maxed out her points earning capability, and clinched the 2021 Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series with her win in the final round at the previous event in Las Vegas. Her team-mate, Julie Nataas (near lane), was set up to face the second place finisher in the standings, Jackie Fricke, by qualifying on the same side of the ladder. She had to advance to the semifinals to do so, and did it easily over Mitch Myers (far lane), as he went into instant tire shake, and shut off to an 8-second pass. Despite slowing more than a tenth from her first round 5.175, Nataas lit up the scoreboard with a 5.295 - 273.32 for the win.

Shawn Cowie --- Jasmine Salinas (near lane) vs Shawn Cowie 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Coming into the round with lane choice and consistent low 5.20's on his scorecard, Shawn Cowie burned out as he prepared to face another injected nitro car as his side of the ladder had only one other blown car, that of Chris Demke, who was eliminated in the first round.

(RIGHT Leaving first on the green was Jasmine Salinas in the near lane, and she took the win with a slightly off-pace 5.388 - 268.44 as Cowie saw his season end in a blaze of tire smoke as he coasted to a losing 18-second pass. That was it for the blown alky cars as the three that qualified were all gone before the second round ended.

Casey Grisel --- Casey Grisel (near lane) vs Rich McPhillips Jr. 
(far lane)

A solid burnout by Casey Grisel in the Jerry Darien-tuned car preceded his matchup with another green car. By the way, whatever happened to the "green cars are bad luck" mantra of the old days? Grisel qualified decently with a 5.30, but slowed to a 5.36 in the first round, and slowed even further to a 5.484 - 263.56 in a losing effor in this round. Casey left first on opponent Rich McPhillips Jr. (near lane) by nearly a tenth, but even a career best wouldn't have been close to McPhillips' nuclear pass of 5.101 - 282.42.

To put those numbers in perspective, Grisel's career best was a 5.247, turned in 2019, while McPhillips' previous best was a low 5-teen from earlier this season, and the best the car had run this year was a 5.123 with Matt Cummings at the wheel. In the "modern" era of A/Fuel Dragster racing (running on 95% nitro), there's only been two runs quicker than McPhillips' 5.101, both clocked last September at the U.S. Nationals by Megan Meyer, a 5.090, backed up by a 5.097 for the quickest runs in A/FD history.


TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR - ROUND TWO ELIMINATIONS

Terry Ruckman --- Terry Ruckman (near lane) vs Shane Westerfield 
(far lane)

Following a strong burnout, Terry Ruckman prepared to face Shane Westerfield in the Rick Jackson Motorsports entry. The two cars qualfied close together, with Westerfield #3 and Ruckman #4, with Westerfield's 5.498 edging out Ruckman's 5.506 on the final qualifying sheet. In this match, Ruckman left first by .011, but it was Westerfield (far lane) first to the finish line with a very good 5.531 - 268.06, to take a half car length victory over Ruckman's solid 5.654 - 261.47 in a losing cause.

Doug Gordon --- Doug Gordon (near lane) vs Ulf Leanders 
(far lane)

Outgoing class champion Doug Gordon burned out first as he prepared to meet Sweden's Ulf Leanders (far lane), who was making his first national event appearance since the 2020 Winternationals. Despite matching his qualifying numbers (5.493 - 267.48) in the first round with a 5.493 - 267.16, Gordon barely earned lane choice honours for this match as Leanders showed no rust on his tuning and driving skills with an almost-as-good 5.509 - 263.87 first round win. In this race, Leanders launched first by half a tenth, but his slightly off-pace 5.674 - 263.62 was no match for Gordon's back-breaking and consistent 5.494 - 267.96 as he advanced to the semifinals.

Brian Hough --- Brian Hough (near lane) vs Sean Bellemeur 
(far lane)

With his championship hopes long gone, Oregon's Brian Hough (left photo) has been in "testing" mode for the past few races, with tuning consultant, and former two-time national champion Jonnie Lindberg, trying out some new ideas in preparation for an all-out assault in 2022. However, his more immediate task was figuring out how to get past the incoming (and former) champion Sean Bellemeur (far lane in the right photo) and his all-conquering team of "Killer B's".

Hough did all he could with a stellar light (.014), and his best run of the weekend, an excellent 5.511 - 267.69, but it wasn't even close at the finish line against Bellemeur's almost as quick launch (.022 light), and low e.t. of the meet at 5.442 - 268.71 to advance to the final round. With the short 12-car field, Bellemeur earned the semifinal bye by virtue of his #1 qualifying position.


TOP FUEL - ROUND TWO ELIMINATIONS

Billy Torrence --- Billy Torrence (near lane) vs Antron Brown 
(far lane)

With the championship decided in the first round, the focus switched to the event win, and with the CAPCO Teammates on opposite sides of the ladder, the possibility of an all-CAPCO final was looming. However, Billy Torrence (burning out in left photo) had to get past Antron Brown (far lane in right photo). Torrence was a tad late off the line, .090 to .056 reaction, but clocked the quicker e.t. at 3.730 - 328.46 to give Brown a real battle. But it wasn't enough, as Brown's very good 3.747 - 327.35 turned on the winlight by just seventeen thousandths of a second.

Steve Torrence --- Steve Torrence (near lane) vs Doug Kalitta 
(far lane)

The other CAPCO car, driven by now four-time world champion Steve Torrence, (left photo) faced Doug Kalitta, (far lane in right photo), without lane choice. That advantage literally went up in smoke as Kalitta smoked the tires early and shut off to a losing 5.456 - 121.55 pass. Torrence had his own problems as he lost traction further down track, and coasted across the finish line with a 4.253 - 200.89 for the win.

Cameron Ferre --- Cameron Ferre (near lane) vs Clay Millican 
(far lane)

The biggest surprise of qualifying, and the first round, was Cameron Ferre (left photo) in the Canadian-based Paton Family car. He ran two career bests in qualifying, and upped the ante even further in the first round, but he came into this match against veteran Clay Millican (far lane in right photo) as an underdog. The drivers left the line almost together but the race was over quickly as Millican smoked the tires, and Ferre cruised to a slowing 3.889 - 304.19 win as he advanced to the semifinals.

The icing on the proverbial cake was earning lane choice over Steve Torrence. Regular NHRA fans may well remember a confrontation they had at the finals in Pomona two years ago. It got heated to the point where Torrence shoved/punched Ferre and the two had to be separated by their crewmen, and a large ($25,000) fine was issued to Torrence by the NHRA. I seriously doubt that their next meeting on the return road after their upcoming semifinal race will devolve into a similar incident.

Mike Salinas (near lane) vs Tripp Tatum 
(far lane)

The final pairing of the second round brought the two black cars to the line, with Mike Salinas in the near lane, and Tripp Tatum in the far lane. Tatum got off the line first by a small margin, but things went sideways, literally, soon after. Both cars smoked the tires, but Salinas ran into far more trouble than Tatum as can be seen in the following photo sequence, courtesy of NHRA.tv and the Sunoco Vision big screen at the track. For the record, Tatum took the win with a coasting 5.980 - 188.31, while Salinas didn't receive a timeslip, for obvious reasons.

Mike Salinas's wild ride --- Mike Salinas's wild ride --- Mike Salinas's wild ride

We've got a bunch more of these shots, unfortunately, none of them in sharp focus, but they do tell the tale of one of the wildest rides seen in a Top Fuel car in a very long time. While Mike Salinas has driven into - and thankfully, out of - trouble more than once in his career, this episode certainly tops the list. Once we've got the rest of our coverage from the Auto Club NHRA Finals posted, we'll go through the rest of the photos of this run and see if we can put together a better selection.


FUNNY CAR - ROUND TWO ELIMINATIONS

Bob Tasca III --- Bob Tasca III (near lane) vs Jim Campbell 
(far lane)

Despite being eliminated from championship contention when Ron Capps won his first round match, Bob Tasca III (left photo) forged ahead towards the event win by dispatching Jim Campbell (far lane in right photo) in the MOON Equipment car of Jim Dunn. Tasca and Campbell left the line together but Campbell was forced to lift early enroute to a 4.792 - 184.30 clocking that was no match for Tasca's best of the weekend 3.946 - 323.50 pass.

John Force --- John Force (near lane) vs Paul Lee 
(far lane)

Another racer that dropped out of the countdown chase at the close of qualifying, John Force (left photo), moved ahead with a convincing win over Paul Lee (far lane in right photo), who fell off his from his earlier passes. Force left second by two hundredths but kept the slicks hooked up to a decent 4.038 - 313.37 time to easily cover Lee's tire-smoking 6-second effort. With the 4.038 elapsed time, Force gave up lane choice to Bob Tasca III in the semifinal round.

Matt Hagan --- Matt Hagan (near lane) vs Ron Capps 
(far lane)

Next up was the BIG one: defending champion Matt Hagan (left photo) versus the points leader Ron Capps (far lane in the right photo). A win for Hagan would keep him in the hunt for the BIG trophy, but a loss to Capps would hand the NAPA driver his second world championship. Capps left first (.043 to .074), but Hagan had the superior car as his 3.948 - 322.24 took the win - by less than half a car length - over Capps' very close 3.995 - 319.45 effort. Now all Hagan had to do was turn on the winlight two more times to take his fourth world championship.

Alexis DeJoria --- Alexis DeJoria (near lane) vs Tim Wilkerson 
(far lane)

The round closed with Alexis DeJoria (left photo) facing off against Tim Wilkerson (far lane in right photo), in a race to determine Matt Hagan's semifinal round opponent. Wilkerson left first by a touch, but DeJoria powered on to another 3-second pass, stopping the clocks with a 3.988 - 318.92 to hold off Wilkerson's fading 4.268 - 227.42 timeslip. Unfortunately, DeJoria's e.t. wasn't enough to gain her choice of lanes in the all-important third round matchup.


TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER - ROUND THREE ELIMINATIONS

Julie Nataas (near lane) vs Jackie Fricke 
(far lane)

Even with a tenth of a second e.t. disadvantage, based on the previous round's results, Julie Nataas (near lane), improved a little to a 5.283 - 274.78 to end Jackie Fricke's (far lane) season. Fricke slowed by more than a tenth with a losing 5.315 - 276.01 pass to fall half a car length short at the finish line as Nataas earned her third final round berth of the season.

Jasmine Salinas --- Jasmine Salinas (near lane) vs Rich McPhillips Jr. 
(far lane)

Burning out with the least amount of tire smoke as possible seems to be the norm for the A/Fuel cars, as Jasmine Salinas (left photo) gets ready to face the McPhillips family juggernaut. Salinas rebounded from a somewhat sub-par second round 5.388 to a much better 5.275 - 280.31, while Rich McPhillips Jr. slowed from his other-worldly 5.101 in the previous round, but still stayed in the 5-teens, with a winning 5.172 - 274.33 timeslip. Even though both cars are tuned by Rich McPhillips (Sr.), there's no "team orders" and it's always an honest heads-up race when they meet.


TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR - ROUND THREE ELIMINATIONS

Shane Westerfield --- Doug Gordon

Prepping the tires for their semi-final round match, Shane Westerfield (left photo) and Doug Gordon (right photo) readied their mounts for the battle to come.

Doug Gordon (near lane) vs Shane Westerfield 
(far lane) --- Greg Bellemeur

(LEFT) Seeing who would get a chance to play giant killer, Doug Gordon (near lane) met Shane Westerfield (far lane) in what promised to be a good race. It certainly was as Westerfield left quickly with a great .031 light, then ran hard to the finish line with an excellent 5.516 - 267.22 that should have or could have been the winning numbers... but it wasn't. Gordon left quicker with an .010 light (in an alky Funny Car? are you kidding?) and lit up the scoreboard with another 5-forty, this time a 5.495 - 267.11 to show how consistent they can be on a good track.

(RIGHT With no one in the other lane to block their path to the final round, the "Killer B's decided to test the track to see what it could hold. Driver Sean Bellemeur quickly found out they'd gone a little (or a lot?) "over center" as the car went into instant tire shake, forcing him to shut off and coast to a 9-second pass and a ticket to the final round.


TOP FUEL - ROUND THREE ELIMINATIONS

Cameron Ferre --- Steve Torrence

(LEFT) Coming into the round on the biggest roll of his career, Cameron Ferre had some real confidence in the car underneath him on the strength of a string of 3.70-3.80 passes, and even had lane choice over the four-time world champion.

(RIGHT With the pressure of defending his championship long passed, Steve Torrence was free to concentrate on winning the event to cap a very successful season. Even though he'd run into some trouble in the previous round, and had lost lane choice, he knew that he had the most consistent winning combination in the class to back him up.

Cameron Ferre (near lane) vs Steve Torrence 
(far lane)

In the near lane, Cameron Ferre left first by 12 thousandths, but it didn't last long as Steve Torrence (far lane) pulled into a solid lead before the 330' mark. He continued to build on that until just past half track, when the engine went south and he was forced to coast across the finish line at 3.813 - 283.07, just six thousandths ahead of a rapidly closing challenger, as Ferre fell short with his 3.831 - 313.37. It was nearly a photo finish and was oh-so-close to putting Ferre in the final round instead of Torrence.

Antron Brown --- Tripp Tatum

Not quite side-by-side burnouts, but Antron Brown (left photo) and Tripp Tatum (right photo) lit up the tires before they decided who would be Torrence's final round opponent. While Brown had 125 previous final round appearances (mostly in Top Fuel), Tatum had never gone this far in Top Fuel eliminations before.

Tripp Tatum (near lane) vs Antron Brown 
(far lane)

With a less than one hundredth lead on reaction times, Antron Brown (far lane) saw his lead evaporate quickly as Tripp Tatum (near lane) outran him at all the early interval points. At the 660' mark, Tatum was still nearly two hundredths in front, but his engine started giving up at that point and he faded to a decent, but losing, 3.915 - 246.57 while Brown powered on to the win at 3.794 - 324.98 to go into the final with lane choice. Both semifinal races were close but there wasn't going to be a cinderella-style finish to the day in Top Fuel.


FUNNY CAR - ROUND THREE ELIMINATIONS

Alexis DeJoria --- Matt Hagan

In sharp contrast to Top Fuel, the drama level in the Funny Car semifinal was the highest of the season as Mat Hagan (right photo) had to win the event to snatch the championship out of Ron Capps hands. With Capps already eliminated (in the previous round), all he could do is hope that Alexis DeJoria (left photo) could stop Hagan.

Matt Hagan (near lane) vs Alexis DeJoria 
(far lane)

Launching first by an (.054 to .081) margin, Matt Hagan (near lane) did his best to win but couldn't pull away from Alexis DeJoria (far lane) and could only get close as she tripped the winlight by a miniscule margin of eight thousandths of a second. The verdict: Hagan 3.975 - 317.79 for the loss, while DeJoria took the win with her 3.940 - 321.04 effort.

Bob Tasca III --- John Force

The other semifinal featured two of the Top Five cars in the class, as Bob Tasca III (left photo) prepared to meet John Force for the 35th time in eliminations. While both drivers were already eliminated from championship contention, they were still battling for the #3 spot in the final points standings.

Bob Tasca III (near lane) vs John Force 
(far lane)

Think the first pair of the semis put on a close race? It just got better in the second, as John Force (far lane) left first by nearly three hundredths, and held that lead until the 660' mark. Then Bob Tasca III (near lane) edged in front and held it to the finish line, stopping the timers first with a 3.950 - 322.58 to take the win by just four thousandths over Force's valiant try of 3.982 - 323.58. A great way to wrap up a great round of racing.


PRO STOCK - ROUND THREE ELIMINATIONS

Kyle Koretsky --- Kyle Koretsky (near lane) vs Dallas Glenn 
(far lane)

With both racers in the first pairing locked into the #3 and #4 positions in the final points standings, the only unknown for Kyle Koretsky (left photo) and Dallas Glenn (far lane in right photo) would be who would advance to the final round. As he's done so often in a brilliant rookie season, Glenn had the quicker reaction time, an .027 light - his slowest of eliminations, after an other-worldly .001 and merely great .017 in previous rounds.

Koretsky wasn't far behind with an .043 light, but took the lead very quickly as Glenn ran into major tire shake and shut off to a 20-second clocking. Koretsky lit up the scoreboard with a 6.601 - 208.71 to move into the final round against what promised to be a very tough opponent, no matter who won in the next pairing.

Greg Anderson --- Greg Anderson (near lane) vs Erica Enders 
(far lane)

Burning out before his most important round of racing in 2021, Greg Anderson (left photo), prepared to meet arch-rival Erica Enders (far lane in right photo) in the race that could decide the World Championship. If Anderson won, then the championship would be his. If Enders won, then she would have to defeat Kyle Koretsky in the final round to take the title. Even higher drama than the Funny Car semifinal as this would be a head-to-head match between the two championship contenders.

Enders left first - by a bunch in Pro Stock terms - and gave herself an immediate .041 lead on the launch. But she shook the tires early, pedaled and couldn't recover enough to catch Anderson's winning 6.578 - 208.23 pass, as he stayed in the 6.50's all weekend. Enders' final numbers were 6.742 - 206.92 in a losing cause.


TOP DRAGSTER - ROUND FOUR ELIMINATIONS

John Richardson (near lane) vs Parker Theobald 
(far lane) --- John Richardson

(LEFT) Moving to the Top Dragster class, we've got John Richardson (near lane) taking on Parker Theobald (far lane) in their semifinal match.

(RIGHT) Richardson left just two thousandths of a second before the green, and coasted to an 8-second loss, while Theobald took the easy win with a safe 7.480 - 181.13 clocking.

Summer Richardson (near lane) vs Jennifer Wiens 
(far lane)

In the other pairing of the semis, Jennifer Wiens (far lane) took a slight lead on the starting line and held on for the win over Summer Richardson (near lane) in a double breakout race. Wiens broke out by two hundredths less, making her 6.190 - 220.94 a winning time over Richardson's 6.430 - 211.39 effort.


TOP SPORTSMAN - ROUND FOUR ELIMINATIONS

Ryan Priddy --- Ryan Priddy (near lane) vs Florentino Martin 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Burning out in the familiar (remember the Pro Stock car they used to run?) "Mountain View Tire" colours, Ryan Priddy prepared to meet his semifinal round opponent in Top Sportsman eliminations.

(RIGHT) Facing him would be Florentino Martin (far lane) and after nearly identical reaction times, Priddy took the win by virtue of a smaller breakout (.003) to Martin's (.011) infraction. Priddy's winning time was a quick 6.617 - 209.33 while Martin's losing times were quicker and faster at 6.409 - 224.62.

Jeff Gillette (near lane) vs Jimmy Lewis 
(far lane)

The other semifinal match saw veteran Jeff Gillette (near lane) take an even closer race as he ran dead-on his 6.95 dial-in with a 6.950 -199.61 for the win. Despite reacting almost as quickly as Gillette (.031 to .030), Jimmy Leeds (far lane) couldn't quite hit his dial with a very close, but losing, 6.410 - 206.48 effort.


SUPER STOCK ELIMINATOR - ROUND FIVE ELIMINATIONS

Angelo DeCarlo - SS/HA

Coming from the #1 qualifying spot in the 57-car field with a great 9.621 e.t. in his '66 Corvette split-window, Angelo DeCarlo, went all the way to the final round before dropping a close decision to event winner Jimmy DeFrank. He's shown here wheelstanding his way to a win in the semifinal round with another 9.60 pass.


COMP ELIMINATOR - FINAL ROUND ELIMINATIONS

Scott McClay - C/ED

We've even got a Comp(licated) Eliminator photo, that of Scott McClay as he launches his C/ED enroute to a loss in the final round of Comp. His opponent Ryan Warter in his H/A (not shown) ran -.481 under the index to defeat McClay's -.441 run, started with a sterling .006 light. The margin at the finish line was less than two hundredths of a second.


TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR - FINAL ROUND ELIMINATIONS

Doug Gordon --- Doug Gordon (near lane) vs Sean Bellemeur 
(far lane)

How could the final round of alky funny car not feature the two dominant players in the class? We've got Doug Gordon (left photo and near lane in right photo) and Sean Bellemeur (far lane in the right photo) going for the gold in a classic matchup. Coming into the final, they'd both been stuck in the 5.40's, with the exception of Bellemeur's tire shaking moonshot attempt on his semifinal bye run.

The race started as it almost always does with Bellemeur launching first (.023 to .043) and fractionally increasing the margin all the way to the finish line. The winlight came on in Bellemeur's lane with an excellent 5.465 - 266.32 as he crossed the stripe less than a car length ahead of Gordon's very close 5.483 - 268.33 time for his sixth national event win of his championship winning season. A tremendous finish to a season of great racing between the two best Top Alcohol Funny Car racers and crews in the business.


TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER - FINAL ROUND ELIMINATIONS

Julie Nataas (near lane) vs Rich McPhillips Jr. 
(far lane)

There was just one more race before the PRO finalists came out and it featured the quickest and fastest (Pro) Sportsman class, the Top Alcohol Dragsters. This season, more than any in memory has seen the A/Fuel Dragsters take over and dominate the category. True to form, the two quickest injected nitro cars met in the final. Note that of the 17 entries in the field, just four were burning methanol (alcohol), only three of them qualified, and only two made it to the second round of eliminations.

After an earth-shaking 5.101 pass in the second round, Rich McPhillips Jr. (far lane) had to be the heavy favourite against the Randy Meyer Racing team car of Julie Nataas (near lane). Ms. Nataas qualified #3 in the show with a very good 5.195, then improved to a 5.175 in her first round win before dropping into the high 5.20's in the next two rounds. On the other side of the track, McPhillips had qualified on top with a 5.155, then stayed in the 5-teens throughout eliminations, with only one run not in the teens going into the final.

When the ambers flashed, Nataas left first by .021 and held the lead until McPhillips passed her at half track, running only one mph faster, but leading by .005 second. It stayed close all the way to the 1320, where McPhillips tripped the timers first with his 5.138 - 278.81 taking the win over Nataas' very close 5.173 - 276.58. The gap at the finish line was barely a quarter car length between the two hard running cars.


PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE - FINAL ROUND ELIMINATIONS

Karen Stoffer (near lane) vs Matt Smith 
(far lane)

Down to the final four races of the season, the Pro Stock Motorcycles came out first, with Matt Smith (far lane), already crowned the season champion for the fourth time, not holding lane choice over opponent Karen Stoffer (near lane). Stoffer qualified #1 with a 6.751 and had been locked into the 6.70's throughout eliminations to be the definite favourite in the final. However, as can be seen clearly in the photo, Smith launched first by a large (.011 to .101) margin and had the power to hold on for the holeshot win by a 6.817 - 200.74 to 6.766 - 198.47 margin. The win was Smith's sixth of the 2021 season, and 32nd of his career.


PRO STOCK - FINAL ROUND ELIMINATIONS

Greg Anderson --- Kyle Koretsky

(LEFT) With the season championship already in hand and the BIG trophy in the trailer, Greg Anderson looked to finish the race with another event win and move one step closer to his goal of 100 NHRA national event wins. He held a strong hand going into the final, having qualified #1, holding low e.t. and top speed of the meet, and running the quickest e.t. of every elimination round.

(RIGHT) Facing Anderson was young Kyle "Kid Chaos" Koretsky who had the second strongest car all weekend, qualifying #2 and staying in the 6.50 zone for the most part, but knowing that he faced a formidable task in getting past Anderson in the final. His only advantage was in reaction times as in previous three rounds he'd averaged an .025 light compared to Anderson's .062 average.

Greg Anderson (near lane) vs Kyle Koretsky 
(far lane)

Turning the tables on the reaction times, Anderson (near lane) left first (.027 to .047), and held on for the holeshot win over Koretsky (far lane). Korestky put down his second quickest run and best speed of the weekend at 6.567 - 209.56 but fell just a few feet short of Anderson's winning 5.574 - 208.23 at the finish line. A great way to wrap up the season for both racers and expect to see more of the same from both of them in 2022.


FUNNY CAR - FINAL ROUND ELIMINATIONS

Bob Tasca III --- Alexis DeJoria

(LEFT) Coming into the final round with momentum on his side, and third place in the final points standings wrapped up, Bob Tasca III burned out before his fifth final round of the year, and hoping to notch his third victory to finish the season on a high note.

(RIGHT) After a string of sub 4-second runs (well, five out of six anyway), Alexis DeJoria came into the final round with lane choice and a chance to notch her second victory of the year.

Bob Tasca III (near lane) vs Alexis DeJoria 
(far lane)

When the ambers flashed, it was Tasca away first, by just .025 seconds and he increased the margin at every incremental point downtrack until tripping the winlight with a 3.955 - 321.65 to take a slightly more than a car-length victory over the hard-charging 3.974 - 322.58 runnerup effort of DeJoria. Another great final round in the books and a more than fitting way to end a season of very competitive Fuel Coupe racing.


TOP FUEL - FINAL ROUND ELIMINATIONS

Steve Torrence --- Antron Brown

(LEFT) The new four-time Top Fuel World Champion, Steve Torrence had dodged some serious roadblocks, and received a couple of lucky breaks enroute to his fourteenth final round of the season. After a suprisingly close first round win over Brandon Welch, he won a pedaling contest over Doug Kalitta, then eked out an ever-so-close .006 victory over Cameron Ferre in the semifinals to gain entry to the final.

(RIGHT) Coming into his second final of the season and holding lane choice, Antron Brown was feeling confident, rebounding from five first round losses in the previous six races to reach the final here in Pomona. Qualifying solidly in the #5 position, he put down a string of 3.70's in eliminations coming into this round.

Steve Torrence (near lane) vs Antron Brown 
(far lane)

And then there was one.... final round that is before the season wrapped up. With the sun sinking low in the L.A. county sky, the two finalists moved into the staging beams and prepared to make their final runs of 2021. Steve Torrence (near lane) had the championship won by the end of the first round, but he wanted to go out on a high note, with an event win too. In the far lane, Antron Brown was looking for his second win of the season as he made the transition in team ownership for next season.

Brown left first by a small margin and held the slim lead until half track before falling back and losing by half a car length. Brown put up a great fight with a very good 3.803 - 312.21 as the engine faded just before the finish line, while Torrence kept the pipes lit a little longer with a 3.759 - 317.12 to trip the timers first.

And that was it for the NHRA Camping World drag racing season. Bring on 2022 !



The latest update as of November 21, 2021


Auto Club NHRA FINALS logo

PRO STOCK - ROUND ONE ELIMINATIONS

Deric Kramer --- Deric Kramer (near lane) vs Kenny Delco 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Getting the tires hot first was Deric Kramer in the "Get Bio-Fuel" Camaro. With only two round wins since Indy, Kramer was looking to do better at Pomona, but starting from the #8 position, meaning that he would almost certainly face the #1 qualifier in the second round, looked to be a daunting task.

(RIGHT) As can clearly be seen in the photo, Kramer (near lane) left on opponent Kenny Delco (by half a tenth), then outran him to the finish line with a solid 6.596 - 208.52 to hold off Delco's almost as quick 6.619 - 209.30 effort.

Aaron Stanfield --- Aaron Stanfield (near lane) vs Cristian Cuadra 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Young Aaron Stanfield, in only his second full season in Pro Stock, entered the Countdown to the Championship in the third position, but some inconsistent results had dropped him out of contention and pushed him down to #6 coming into the final race of the season. He qualifed decently in the #7 position, but was matched up with the #10 qualifier and only outqualified him by two hundredths.

(RIGHT) In the far lane, Cristian Cuadra in the bright orange Corral Boots entry, cut a very sharp .015 light that gave him a slight lead over Stanfield (near lane). Cuadra's lead didn't last past the Christmas tree as he encountered serious tire shake, forcing him to lift and coast to a 13-second clocking. Meanwhile, Stanfield made his best pass of the weekend with a strong 6.588 - 208.33 to advance to the second round.

Mason McGaha --- Mason McGaha (near lane) vs Chris McGaha 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Even newer than Stanfield to Pro Stock competition, second generation driver Mason McGaha overtook his father Chris in the standings, and was hoping for a strong finish to his season. He burned out here before facing his father in an all-McGaha match in the first round, holding lane choice with his #6 qualifying spot, versus Chris' #11 position.

(RIGHT) The "old man" Chris McGaha (far lane) left first on his son, but the lead was short lived as he quickly became a victim of tire shake, slowing to a 16-second pass. Improving on his qualifying effort was young Mason, as he put down the quickest e.t. of the round to this point, ringing up a 6.586 - 208.39 on the fairgrounds scoreboard.

Erica Enders --- Erica Enders (near lane) vs Steve Graham 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Knowing that she faced a very tall mountain to climb, Eric Enders burned out in the "Melling Performance" Camaro, before her first round race. Coming into eliminations sitting 47 points behind Greg Anderson, she had to keep turning on winlights to stay in contention. If she could advance to the semifinal round, where if all the cards played as expected, she would be facing Anderson, BUT would have to not only beat him, but win the final round too. Tall task indeed!

(RIGHT) Knowing that he nothing to lose as he was at a performance disadvantage, Steve Graham, rolled the dice on the starting line and came up bust, as his -.001 redlight automatically eliminated him. Enders didn't spare the horses as she pounded out a very quick 6.576 - 209.10 to give her a good chance at lane choice in the second round.

Matt Hartford --- Matt Hartford (near lane) vs Bob Butner 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Facing Enders in the next round would be the winner of this next race. Burning out first in the "Total Seal" car, Matt Hartford hoped to finish the season on a strong note, as he had slipped from the #6 spot at the start of the countdown to the #9 position coming into this race. Qualifying in the #4 position put him in a good position going into eliminations.

(RIGHT) Leaving first by a smidgen, Hartford (near lane) left Bob Butner (far lane) quickly behind as tire shake claimed another victim. Hartford exactly matched his qualifying e.t. with a 6.587 - 209.59 timeslip. In the far lane, Butner limped across the stripe at 22.094 - 37.60 to close out his weekend.

Kyle Koretsky --- Kyle Koretsky (near lane) vs Troy Coughlin Jr. 
(far lane)

(LEFT) After scoring his first national even win in Charlotte, young Kyle Koretsky had only notched a first round win in St. Louis, then dropped to consecutive first round losses, eliminating him from the points chase before arriving in Pomona. He rebounded here though with a #2 qualifying pass to earn a decided advantage over his first round opponent.

(RIGHT) Barely visible in the far lane, in a similarly-hued pink car, Troy Coughlin Jr. had been going in the opposite direction to Koretsky, notching back-to-back semifinal finishes at the two previous races, but a #14 qualifying position put him in deep trouble going into the first round. He left almost together with Korestky, but couldn't keep pace going down track and crossed the finish line second with a 6.603 - 207.91, trailing Koretsky's winning - and low e.t. of the round to this point - 6.566 - 208.71 pass.

Greg Anderson --- Greg Anderson (near lane) vs John Callahan 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Going into eliminations with a 47-point lead over closest challenger Erica Enders, all Greg Anderson had to do was keep turning on the winlight, or see Enders fall before meeting him in the semifinal round. The championship was by no means wrapped up, but Anderson was sitting in the driver's seat, literally and figuratively.

(RIGHT) Looking like he was laying a gigantic holeshot on Anderson, John Callahan (far lane) was instead turning on a blatant redlight with an -.232 reaction time against Anderson's safe .071 launch. Callahan shut off early, seeing the winlight glowing in Anderson's lane, and slowed to an 11-second time. Anderson didn't take it easy as he cranked out a new low e.t. of the meet at 6.549 - 208.68 to serve notice that he wasn't taking any prisoners in his quest for a fifth world championship.

Dallas Glenn --- Dallas Glenn (near lane) vs Alan Prusiensky 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Closing out the round was the odds-on consensus for Rookie of The Year, Dallas Glenn. Taking his third win of the season at the previous event of the season in Las Vegas, Glenn was still mathematically in the points until Anderson's first round win eliminated him, but only needed a first round win to clinch third place in the standings. He was in a strong position, qualifying #3 and holding at least a tenth of a second advantage over his opponent.

(RIGHT) That opponent, Alan Prusiensky (far lane) did leave first, but left a redlight on the tree, cutting it just a little too close with an -.020 reaction time, while Glenn was solid on the lights with an .018 leave. Glenn improved slightly on his qualifying time with a very good 6.572 - 207.85 to earn lane choice over Mason McGaha in the second round, while Prusiensky clocked his best of the weekend with a 6.628 - 207.37 losing effort.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE - ROUND ONE ELIMINATIONS

Scotty Pollacheck (near lane) vs Andrew HInes 
(far lane) --- Angie Smith (near lane) vs Angelle Sampey 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Pro Stock bike opened eliminations with two middle of the pack runners, the #6 qualifying Scotty Pollacheck (near lane) matching up against the #7 qualifier Andrew Hines (far lane). They left nearly together but Hines slowed near the top end and was off the throttle early to a 7.014 - 173.52, while Pollacheck ran strongly to a 6.857 - 197.80 time as he advanced to the second round.

(RIGHT) With only 12 bikes in the field, Angelle Sampey (far lane) met up with #8 qualifier Angie Smith in the opening stanza. While Smith was well out of contention, Sampey only trailed points leader Matt Smith by 41-points and had to advance to keep her title hopes alive. It was all over before Sampey left the line as Smith redlighted (-.028), handing her the automatic win. Smith ran it through to a 6.927 - 193.74, while Sampey powered to a great 6.812 - 183.22, despite shutting off a little early.

Steve Johnson (near lane) vs Freddy Camerena 
(far lane) --- Eddie Krawiec (near lane) vs Chris Bostick 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Another championship contender, Steve Johnson (near lane), sitting just 45-points behind the leader Smith, came into the first round from the #4 qualifying position and easily dispatched Freddie Camarena (far lane) with an excellent 6.801 - 197.86 to easily cover Camarena's leaving first (.038 to .074), finishing second 6.969 - 195.39 pass.

(RIGHT) With nothing at stake other than a possible event win, former champion (last time in 2012) Eddie Krawiec (near lane) qualified well in the #3 spot, and took an easy win Chris Bostick (far lane) redlighted. Bostick keep on the gas to the finish, clocking a 6.915 - 196.44, while Krawiec notched a much better 6.843 - 199.64 to move into the next round.

Matt Smith (near lane) vs Ryan Oehler 
(far lane) --- Karen Stoffer (near lane) vs Kelly Clontz 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Needing to keep winning rounds, or see his pursuers fall early, Matt Smith (near lane) held a big advantage going into eliminations. Holding top speed of the meet along with his #2 qualifying 6.778 - 201.25 effort, nearly matched the e.t., and exceeded the mph with a tremendous 6.779 - 201.85 pass to obliterate Ryan Oehler's (far lane) distant 7.030 - 94.07. Smith's win gave him the matchup he wanted in the second round, facing Angelle Sampey, and only needing to defeat her to take his fifth World Championship.

(RIGHT) The final race of the round featured two female competitors, with low qualifier Karen Stoffer (near lane) facing Kelly Clontz (far lane). Everything went in Stoffer's favour, as she left first, ran low e.t. of the meet (6.741) at 200.26 mph for a statement win. Clontz ran out of power early and coasted to a 9-second loss to finish her season. Stoffer advanced with lane choice and a very good chance to earn her third consecutive final round berth and possibly, her second win of the season.



The latest update as of November 19, 2021


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FUNNY CAR - ROUND ONE ELIMINATIONS

Paul Lee --- Jeff Diehl

Warming up the tires prior to their first round matchup were Paul Lee (LEFT) and Jeff "The Surfer" Diehl (LEFT) as the first pair of Funny Cars down the track on Sunday morning.

Jeff Diehl (near lane) vs Paul Lee 
(far lane) --- Jeff Diehl (near lane) vs Paul Lee 
(far lane)

When the lights flashed, Diehl (near lane) left first by a few hundredths on Lee (far lane), but started smoking the tires almost immediately and shut off to a 9-second clocking, while Lee sped to the finish line with his best run of the weekend at 3.908 - 327.98.

Robert Hight --- Jim Campbell

In the second pairing, low qualifier Robert Hight (LEFT) (bannering the event and track sponsor Auto Club), faced off against the bubble qualifier Jim Campbell (RIGHT) in the retro-inspired MOONeyes sponsored Jim Dunn Racing car.

Jim Campbell (near lane) vs Robert Hight 
(far lane) --- Jim Campbell (near lane) vs Robert Hight 
(far lane)

Both drivers left together (.100 to .101 lights), but Hight (far lane) ran into immediate trouble, (note the tire smoke in the right photo), and had to pedal to a 6.043 - 253.56 clocking. But it wasn't all clear sailing for the underdog Campbell, as his car ran out of power early and was only able to muster a 5.403 - 184.57 that was just enough to turn on the winlight. A BIG upset win for the hard working So-Cal team.

Bobby Bode --- Alexis DeJoria

(LEFT) Burning out before his first round race was Bobby Bode in the bright red AR-BEE car, while on the (RIGHT) the Bandero Tequila entry of Alexis DeJoria did her pre-race tire prep.

Bobby Bode (near lane) vs Alexis DeJoria 
(far lane)

Launching first in the near lane, Bode took a slight reaction time advantage but shook the tires before the 330' mark, and slowed to a 5-second pass, while Dejoria (far lane) kept the pedal down all the way to a strong 3.936 - 327.66 time.

Terry Haddock --- Terry Haddock

The ultimate underdog Terry Haddock gets top billing in this pair of photos as he prepares to face one of the championship contenders.

Ron Capps --- Terry Haddock (near lane) vs Ron Capps 
(far lane)

(LEFT) That "contender" was none other than points leader Ron Capps in the NAPA Dodge in a crucial first round race that he needed to win if he wanted to take the 2021 Camping World NHRA Funny Car Championship.

(RIGHT) The suspense was over quickly as Haddock, (near lane) was late, by a .159 to .093 margin, then fell further behind as he was forced to pedal his way out of tire smoke while Capps (far lane) had clear sailing to the finish line, exactly matching his qualifying e.t. with a 3.908 - 325.06 coming up on the scoreboards.

Chad Green --- Chad Green (near lane) vs John Force 
(far lane)

(LEFT) In the Wilkerson "team" car, Chad Green prepared to meet a formidable opponent (John Force), but he wasn't too far behind in performance during qualifying and with a good light and a solid run could be trouble for the 16 time champion.

(RIGHT) Leaving first was Force (far lane) by just two hundredths, and he had plenty of oomph on the top end with a strong 3.938 - 329.75 pass to hold off the valiant try by Green, who trailed with a very respectable 3.986 - 319.37 timeslip.

Tony Jurado --- Matt Hagan

(LEFT) Coming a long way in a hurry since making his "Big Show" debut at Sonoma in July, California's Tony Jurado looked to follow up on his great showing at Las Vegas where he ran a 3.98 off (out of) the trailer, and carded three more low 4.0 passes. Here he qualified strongly with another 3.98 to show that he was ready to race with the big dogs.

(RIGHT) Facing what was shaping up to be a tough opponent, and needing to win to keep his championship hopes alive, Matt Hagan warmed the tires as he prepared to face Jurado.

Tony Jurado (near lane) vs Matt Hagan 
(far lane)

Doing what he had to, Hagan (far lane) left on Jurado (near lane) by a slim one hundredth of a second margin, then put down enough power to take a one-car length win. Jurado gave it a great shot, clocking in at 3.973 - 322.34 (both career bests) but fell short of Hagan's winning 3.935 - 323.04 effort.

Tim Wilkerson (near lane) vs Cruz Pedregon 
(far lane) --- Tim Wilkerson (near lane) vs Cruz Pedregon 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Looking like something out of the past, it was side-by-side burnouts for Tim Wilkerson (near lane) and Cruz Pedregon in the far lane. The only thing lacking was the copious amounts of tire smoke as was so common in the past.

(RIGHT) Knowing that he was already eliminated from the Funny Car championship chase due to Ron Capps' first round win, Pedregon could only hope for a good showing in eliminations and a #3 finish in the points standings. Even better would be a third event win to close the 2021 season in his best position of the last ten years.

Tim Wilkerson (near lane) vs Cruz Pedregon 
(far lane) --- Tim Wilkerson (near lane) vs Cruz Pedregon 
(far lane)

Leaving first by a small margin (.050 to .073) Wilkerson (near lane) steadily pulled away from Pedregon (far lane) as the Snap-On driver had the tires break loose before the 660' mark, slowing to a 4.808 - 170.58 clocking, while Wilkerson powered to the finish line with the third quickest clocking of the round at 3.922 - 325.30 for the win. Wilkerson became the second bottom-half qualifier to advance after Campbell's earl iershocker over Hight.

Bob Tasca III --- Bob Tasca III (near lane) vs J.R. Todd 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Wanting to finish the season on a high note, Bob Tasca III looked to put the Motorcraft Mustang into the winners circle for the third time in 2021 and improve on his previous best of a #5 finish in the points standings. He qualified decently in the #9 spot, but lane choice was in the hands of his opponent, the #8 qualifier, J.R. Todd.

(RIGHT) Leaving first by a smidgen, Tasca (near lane) was closely pursued by Todd (far lane) for a few hundred feet before giving up the chase past the 660' lights, and lifting to a 4.095 - 251.67 clocking, while Tasca put down a solid 3.955 - 321.65 to advance to the second round with lane choice over Jim "Lucky Man" Campbell.



The latest update as of November 18, 2021


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Following the usual pre-race ceremonies (we'll have those photos later), eliminations kicked off - as always - with the "Kings (and Queens) of The Sport", TOP FUEL.

TOP FUEL - ROUND ONE ELIMINATIONS

Doug Kalitta (near lane) vs Josh Hart 
(far lane) --- Doug Kalitta (near lane) vs Josh Hart 
(far lane)

The first pair came out of the middle of the field, as Doug Kalitta (near lane) was looking for a good, or at least better, finish to what was otherwise a fairly miserable season for the veteran MAC Tools driver. Facing him was Rookie of The Year candidate, Josh Hart (far lane), who won his first race in Top Fuel, the Gatornationals, in March, and followed up that initial success with another win (Charlotte) and four semi-final appearances in a shortened 13-race schedule.

After so many disappointing passes, Kalitta put it all together with his quickest and fastest times of the season, a very strong 3.709 - 327.66 to take an easy win as Hart ran into trouble early and shut off to a 4.391 - 181.03 to close out his season on a rather down note as he finished with three straight first round losses.

Alex Laughlin --- Alex Laughlin (near lane) vs Clay Millican 
(far lane)

(LEFT) A real surprise this year was Alex Laughlin, who jumped into the seat of Scott Palmer's car at Denver, qualifying in his first race after licensing just four days earlier. He managed to turn that one-race deal into seven races and notch a pair of round wins, with the first coming at the U.S. Nationals. Alex showed some real marketing moxie, putting together some creative deals, including the "500 Fans Club" that sponsored his Auto Club Finals appearance.

(RIGHT) Laughlin (near lane) gave Clay Millican (far lane) a real battle in the first round, nearly matching his career best numbers (3.759 - 321.04), set in qualifying, with an almost as good 3.764 - 321.04 clocking. However, Millican left first by four hundredths, and ran just a little quicker at 3.736 - 324.67 to take the winlight by little more than a car length.

Justin Ashley --- Justin Ashley (near lane) vs Antron Brown 
(far lane)

(RIGHT) The next pair put on an even closer race, with Justin Ashley (near lane) looked to rebound from qualifying in the #12 position, despite a very good 3.765 - 320.67 effort.

(RIGHT) Ashley has some serious reaction time credentials, but his opponent, Antron Brown (far lane), left first by a hundredth or so and put down an excellent 3.717 - 328.94 to hold off Ashley's hard charging, and quicker, 3.713 - 329.42 effort. The margin at the finish line was barely a quarter car length as Brown rebounded from three consecutive first round losses to advance to the second round.

Steve Chrisman --- Steve Chrisman (near lane) vs Mike Salinas 
(far lane)

(LEFT) After spending the 2020 season on the sidelines, SoCal veteran Steve Chrisman made his third appearance of the season in the Worsham Racing (Chuck & Del) car and slid into the field on the bump with an early shutoff 4.106 - 257.83 pass.

(RIGHT That earned Chrisman a first round date with the #1 qualifier, Mike Salinas (far lane), in the "Scrappers Racing" entry. They left nearly together, but Salinas steadily opened the gap on Chrisman and turned on the winlight with a 3.745 - 327.98 that train-lengthed Chrisman's creditable 4.125 - 272.94 time.

Cameron Ferre --- Cameron Ferre (near lane) vs Leah Pruett 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Coming out of the waterbox with the tires spinning hard, Cameron Ferre came into the first round with some real confidence in his car. The Paton family team, based in Canada, was finally able to cross the border a month ago and made their season debut at Bristol with Ferre behind the wheel. Their next event, Las Vegas, saw Ferre clock three straight career bests, ringing up a 3.85, 3.82, and 3.81 in succession before smoking the tires in the first round. Their performances here in qualifying followed a similar pattern as Ferre opened qualifying with a 3.880 before finishing with another career best e.t. of 3.803 at 312.28 mph.

(RIGHT) Having to face a tough customer in Leah Pruett, (far lane) in the opening round, Ferre left first by a smidgen and ran yet another career best, breaking into the 3.70's with a 3.796 - 319.75 to send Pruett packing. She faded early to a losing 5.053 - 189.71 to end her season on a sour note after qualifying in the #3 position.

Brandon Welch --- Steve Torrence

(LEFT) Another one of the many success stories coming out of this event saw Brandon Welch rebound nicely from a frustrating race at the previous event in Las Vegas, where he ran a very decent 3.94, but was bumped out of the field in the last qualifying session. Here, he picked up the pace a little and ran a new season best and broke his personal 300-mph barrier with a 3.919 - 308.28 that left him in the #15 qualifying spot.

(RIGHT) Facing him was the three time defending Top Fuel champion, on the brink of a "four-peat", as Steve Torrence came into Pomona with an almost insurmountable lead in the points standings, and only needed a first round win over Welch to clinch the title.

Brandon Welch (near lane) vs Steve Torrence 
(far lane)

As expected, the championship went to Steve Torrence (far lane) as he pounded out a solid 3.769 - 326.00 to take the big trophy back to Texas yet again. It didn't come that easy though, as Brandon Welch put up a solid fight, leaving just a tick behind Torrence, then chasing him to the finish line with another season best e.t. and career best speed at 3.877 - 309.13 to close out his season on a high note.

Tripp Tatum --- Tripp Tatum (near lane) vs Shawn Langdon 
(far lane)

(LEFT) Getting a late start on the season, with his first race at the U.S. Nationals, Tripp Tatum got up to speed, so to speak, quickly with a 3.87 best at Indy, followed with an excellent 3.714 - 333.16 at St. Louis. His next event, at Las Vegas, saw the 3.70's - 330's continue with bests of 3.711 - 331.61 and another round win after his first at St. Louis. He started a little slower here in Pomona, landing in the #9 qualifying spot with a 3.750 best.

(RIGHT) Despite giving Shawn Langdon an early advantage on reaction times (.040 to .091), Tatum was able to quickly take control of the race, clocking a new career best elapsed time (a recurring theme in this report) at 3.704 - 327.51 to get past the first round for the third event in a row. He also earned lane choice over low qualifier Mike Salinas with the very quick e.t.

Brittany Force --- Brittany Force (near lane) vs 
Billy Torrence (far lane)

(LEFT) Although the championship was now officially out of her reach, Brittany Force still had a chance to win the final Camping World Drag Racing Series event of the year. Despite her lowly (#13) qualifying position, the worst for her in more than two years, she still had a chance to win her second event of the season.

(RIGHT) Facing her in the far lane, Billy Torrence came close to matching his qualifying time with a 3.730 - 328.30 for a runaway win. As can be clearly seen in the photo, Force was already smoking the tires before she passed the Christmas tree.

Brittany Force - Tiresmoke --- Brittany Force - Tiresmoke --- Brittany Force - Tiresmoke

Here's a trio of shots showing just how quickly and comprehensively Brittany Force smoked the tires enroute to her last run of the 2021 season. And that was a wrap for the first round of Top Fuel eliminations. Next up: Funny Car eliminator.



The latest update as of November 14, 2021


Auto Club NHRA FINALS logo

11:00 AM UPDATE


The first round of nitro eliminations are in the books now and the Top Fuel championship went, as expected, to Steve Torrence as he outran Brandon Welch in a good side-by-side battle. Putting a final exclamation mark on Torrence's win was Brittany Force going into heavy and instant tire smoke as she fell to Steve's father in her first round race. Number three in the points, Mike Salina continued his string of good runs, advancing to the second round and closing the gap to Force to just 18 points. If he can get past Tripp Tatum - no small task - in the second round, he will finish #2 in Top Fuel for 2021.

NEWS FLASH

The tuner for Mike Salinas' "Scrappers Racing" team (Alan Johnson), for the past two seasons is moving to the Connie Kalitta conglomerate in 2022, heading up the Top Fuel and (presumably) the Funny Car teams of Shawn Langdon and J.R. Todd. Big changes in the Kalitta operation have been rumoured for some time, mainly due to the poor performances they've had this season, but last night the announcement was made and it's official. It could be just one of many "game changers" coming for the sport next season. Stay tuned for more news of changes as they happen.


10:00 AM UPDATE


At the close of qualifying yesterday, the championship chase(s) in the four PRO categories came into sharper focus. Coming into the final race of the 2021 season, three drivers had at least a mathematical chance of taking the championship, but that was quickly reduced to two, defending champion Steve Torrence and former (2017) champion Brittany Force, after Friday's first qualifying session.

It's almost a foregone conclusion that Torrence will end the battle in the first round, as he faces nitro newbie Brandon Welch in the first round. In contrast, Force has a big mountian to climb due to her uncharacteristically poor qualifying position (#13), and she has to race Billy Torrence in the first round. And that's never an easy race against a very tough opponent.

Despite a valiant late-season charge, Mike Salinas was dropped from contention, but has a chance to finish second in the standings if Force goes out early in today's eliminations, as he's only 48 points behind her before racing gets underway this morning. Here's the chart showing the respective points totals for all of the Top Ten Countdown racer.

Top Fuel Countdown Points November 13, 2021

While the Top Fuel battle is all but over, there are some seriously dramatic scenarios playing out in the other three classes, starting with Funny Car.



Funny Car Countdown Points November 13, 2021

Pro Stock Countdown Points November 13, 2021

Pro Stock Motorcycle Countdown Points November 13, 
2021

The latest update as of November 13, 2021


Auto Club NHRA FINALS logo

10:00 AM UPDATE


Despite his best efforts, including the quickest pass in the first qualifying session last night, Mike Salinas has been officially eliminated from championship contention in Top Fuel. He now sits 171 points behind leader Steve Torrence but could only gain a maximum of 165 points if Torrence qualifies in the bottom quarter of the field and loses in the first round. In second place in the standings, Brittany Force fell off her torrid string of qualifying results, landing in the #11 spot in the field and losing ground to Torrence. She now sits 108 points behind him and could see herself eliminated from the chase when qualifying ends this afternoon.

In Funny Car, two of the three "on the bubble" racers were eliminated from contention, despite the low qualifying effort of Robert Hight and the #6 position of Bob Tasca III. That leaves John Force on very thin ice as he needs the racers above him in the standings to fall in the first round while he wins the race, after taking low qualifier in each of today's sessions and #1 for the entire field. A very tall order for the "ol' truck driver".

At the top of the points heap sits Ron Capps, and he widened the gap on second place Matt Hagan last night. It's now a 61 point lead, or just a hair more than two round wins. If that margin stays the same, or widens, then Hagan will have a very difficult time catching him.

To be continued... stay tuned!



The latest update as of November 12, 2021


Auto Club NHRA FINALS logo

Auto Club NHRA FINALS - Thursday Top Alcohol Qualifying highlights

After three days of angst, anger, and frustration, we're finally back online with the first - of many - postings from the final event on the Camping World Drag Racing Series calendar, the 57th annual running of the Auto Club NHRA Finals from fabled Auto Club Raceway Pomona. On hand to capture all the action with his clutch of Nikon cameras in hand is our hard working photograher, "BIG" Bob Snyder. Here's his first installment from the Top Alcohol Funny Car and Dragster qualifying session late yesterday afternoon.

At the end of a decidedly less than scintillating qualifying session, which saw one lane departure (Don Hudson crossed the centerline), a big engine explosion on the burnout (Mike Doushgounian), a big "bang" near the finish line (Chris Marshall) and a "large plume of smoke" crossing the finish line (Brian Hough), the fans finally got to see two cars make great side-by-side passes to the 1320' mark. Three cars had made very good passes earlier, with Shane Westerfield leading the way at 5.498 - 267.80, followed closely by Terry Ruckman at 5.514 - 267.80 and Brian Hough a little further back with a 5.543 - 259.16 clocking.

Sean Bellemeur - 'Hussey Performance' - TA/FC --- Doug Gordon - 'BETA Motorcycles' - TA/FC

Scoreboards

However, as so often happens, the best was saved for last, as newly crowned national champion Sean Bellemeur (LEFT photo) got to the stripe first with low e.t. and top speed of the session, 5.474 - 269.89, to edge out the outgoing champion, Doug Gordon, (RIGHT photo), who trailed by less than a car length with an excellent 5.493 - 267.48 pass for the second spot on the ladder.

Julie Nataas - 'OTG' - A/FD

With 17 cars entered in the dragster field, qualifying wasn't guaranteed to be a "knock down - drag out" affair, but the first baker's dozen of cars down the track laid down some good runs, with Canada's Dan Mercier leading the way with one of his best passes of the season, a 5.260 - 272.17. Just a few thousandths behind at 5.268 - 273.88 was the blown car of James Stevens. As the final two pairs prepared to run, the #3 car on the ladder was the rookie Eric Chesleigh, making his first national event start and clocking a very respectable 5.406 - 254.81 in his maiden voyage.

In an all-female pairing, running opposite Jasmine Salinas was the #4 driver in the national points standings, Julie Nataas (above), and she topped everyone with low e.t. of the round at 5.232 - 274.72 in her first appearance at Pomona in the Meyer Racing A/Fuel car.

Jackie Fricke - 'Finke Equipment' - A/FD --- Shawn Cowie - 'Mundie's Towing' - B/AD

The final pair had good conditions in which to attempt to wrest the top qualifying spot from Nataas, but Jackie Fricke (LEFT) fell just short with a second best effort of 5.245 - 277.94 (top speed of the round), to outrun Canada's Shawn Cowie (RIGHT) to the finish line as he stopped the clocks with a fourth best of the session 5.261 - 277.89 to close out qualifying on the first day of the Auto Club NHRA Finals. Check out the scoreboard shot below to see the numbers.

Scoreboards

NOTE:   While filling in the details on this post, I realized that I've been writing Greg Bellemeur, instead of his correct name Sean. I don't know how long or how many times I've made that mistake, but it showed up at least half a dozen times over the past two weeks, and possibly more often and further back than that. Frankly, I don't how our proofreader missed those errors, but they are corrected now. At least the ones I've found so far. Any further corrections are invited. PS: Greg Bellemeur is Sean's father, and has a very long and illustrious career in drag racing, driving an assortment of nitro burning hot rods in Southern California and beyond.


3:00 PM UPDATE:

They've just finished running the second qualifying session for the Top Alcohol Funny Cars and Dragsters at Pomona. There were some definite improvements in both classes, but it's still been a tough track for some of the teams to overcome. However, the first three pairs of funny cars carded side-by-side 5-second runs to improve the look of the 12-car field to show that it was possible to make very good runs. Although the atmospheric conditions were worse than Thursday, with air temp up from 83 to 89 (F) and an extra 200 feet of corrected altitude, only Brian Hough failed to improve on his day first day clocking. The only downside in the group was another engine explosion and oildown from Mike Doushgounian, which held things up for 15 minutes of cleanup.

In contrast, only two cars out of the final three pairs made it to the finish line under power, with Ulf Leanders running just .001 slower than his Thursday effort, and Sean Bellemeur putting out some serious engine smoke on the top end as he shut off early to a 5.566 - 243.85 to close out the session.

On the dragster side, the 17-car field necessitated a bye run to start the round, and that saw Trevor Larkin get on the board after his failed attempt on Thursday, with a decent, but labouring 5.611 - 247.75 pass. Yesterday's bump spot holder, Johnny Ahten, knocked six seconds off his Thursday e.t. but the scoreboard showed only an 8.327 which left him #14 on the ladder. Starting from the #17 spot going into the final qualifying session tomorrow will be Taylor Vetter as she had another troubled pass, smoking the tires hard and early for a near duplication of her first run of the weekend.

The first big shot fired in the session came from the Jerry Darien-tuned car of Casey Grisel, as he jumped all the way from the bump spot to the #6 position with a very good 5.307 - 274.66, running alongside Eric Chesleigh, who backed up his earlier 5.406 with a consistent 5.429 pass. In the next pair, Kim Parker got off the new bump spot with a decent 5.462 - 255.05, despite a dropped cylinder on the top end. Then things started getting quicker and faster, as Madison Payne vaulted all the way from #15 to the second spot in the field with an excellent 5.237 - 278.12 that also notched a new top speed for the class.

The final two pairs saw, as expected, the best runs of the round, starting with Jackie Fricke going a little quicker (5.218 following her 5.245 on Thursday), but that was only second best in that pairing, as Rich McPhillips Jr. broke into the 5-teens, with a new #1 pass of 5.184 - 266.69 to move from #12 to the top spot. In the final pair, yesterday's low qualifier, Julie Nataas, tried to take back the #1 position, but fell just short with a 5.195 - 273.05 that moved her past Fricke into the #2 position. In the other lane, Shawn Cowie, in the quickest blown car in the field, improved by a fraction, with a 5.252 - 277.49 that moved him up one spot to the #5 rung on the ladder heading into Saturday's final qualifying session.


6:00 PM UPDATE:

The first qualifying session for the PRO classes is now in the books at Pomona. The first class out of the lanes, the Pro Stock Motorcycles, saw only 12 bikes, of the 14 pre-entered, come out for their session. And of those 12 bikes, only eight riders made it into the 6's, with just two in the 6.70's, led by defending world champion Matt Smith at 6.779 - 210.19, while Karen Stoffer was close behind at 6.785 - 197.97. The two closest pursuers to Smith in the Countdown, Steve Johnson, in the #2 spot, and Angelle Sampey (#3), laid down competitive runs, with Johnson holding the third spot in the field, courtesy of a 6.811 - 197.39, while Sampey sat one position lower with a 6.819 - 196.76.

Pro Stock (cars) saw all 17 entries make an attempt in their qualifying session, with one car, that of Mike Callahan, not getting a timeslip due to a SB3A (start before three ambers - or, in other words, leaving before the tree was activated). Despite some good early results, it was fully halfway through before the first 6.50's started popping up on the scoreboards, with Deric Kramer and Matt Hartford clocking side-by-side 6.594's, both at 208 mph, to take the early lead in the field. Their lead didn't last long, as the next car down the track, Mason McGaha ran a little quicker at 6.589 to take the top spot.

Greg Anderson - 'Hendrick Cars


That held for one pair, until Kyle Koretsky and Dallas Glenn one-upped them by one hundredth of a second at 6.584, both at 208 mph to take over the top spots on the ladder. Koretsky took the #1 position by .12 of a mph over Glenn's #2, pushing Hartford back to #3 and Kramer down to #4. But - and (don't) stop me if you've read this before - the best was saved for last as the top two in the Countdown standings met in the final pair. Greg Anderson covered everyone with a very strong 6.566 - 210.21 for the top spot, while Erica Enders could "only" manage a 6.589 - 209.04 for the #4 position after the first session.

As the sun set over the Pomona hills, the really fast cars started coming out of the lanes, with Funny Car leading off. Of the 20 cars in the pits, 19 made it to the starting line, with the Jason Rupert team still thrashing to get their replacement bodied entry into racing shape, under the direction of Rahn Tobler and Johnny West. The first pair down the track turned into a single as Gary Densham - in what may or may not be his 500th NHRA national event - didn't move when the lights came down and he shut off at the line. The first actual pair saw very good side-by-side runs by hard core privateers, with Jeff Diehl making his best pass of the season at 4.031 - 314.24 to take the #2 spot, behind Tony Jurado, who kept his 3-second barrage continuing, with an opening 3.988 - 316.08, good for the top spot. That was just .002 off his career best, rung up at the previous event on the tour in Las Vegas.

Robert Hight - 'Auto Club' - FC


That early 3-second run by Jurado held onto the #1 spot through the next three pairs, until the first side-by-side 3-second times rang up on the scoreboards, with Robert Hight (pictured above) dropping into the 3.80's with an excellent 3.894 - 330.55 to leave Alexis DeJoria nearly a tenth back at 3.954 - 318.92 in the second spot. The next pair challenged Hight but didn't displace him as Bob Tasca III (3.975) and John Force (3.939) muscled into the top four, in the #2 and #3 spots. The final four cars were the only ones with a real chance for the championship and they had varying results. Cruz Pedregon made his mark with a solid 3.939 - 321.96, which ended up in the #4 spot, while the final pair matched up the top two cars in the standings. Second place Matt Hagan shook the tires before the 330' mark and shut off to a 4.483, while Ron Capps ran strong into the #2 spot on the ladder at 3.908 - 329.83 as he increased his lead over Hagan to 61 points after the first session.

Finishing off the day were the Top Fuel cars as the track was now in almost full darkness with header flames rising high into the night as the session began. It began with two single passes, as Steve Chrisman (driving the Worsham family car) remained in the pits, saving parts and money. In the second bye run, Cameron Ferre put the Paton family car (from Canada) into the 3.80's with a career best 3.880, despite an early shutoff at 299.66 mph. The first pairing saw two 3.75 runs, with Tripp Tatum laying down a 3.752 - 306.67, while Alex Laughlin (in the Scott Palmer car) turned career bests of 3.759 - 324.83 to put a temporary hold on the #2 spot on the charts.

Those numbers held up for just one more pair until Kalitta teammates Shawn Langdon and Doug Kalitta put on a impressive display with a great side-by-side race. Langdon came out on top, and temporarily led the field with a 3.747 - 324.05, while Kalitta was just a little slower at 3.759 - 321.65 for the #4 position. That fourth spot very quickly became #6 for Kalitta, as the next pairing saw Clay Millican ease into #4 with a 3.756 - 321.12, while in the other lane, Antron Brown jumped into the top spot with a super strong 3.719 - 329.26 timeslip. But that top qualifying run was erased in the very next pair, as Billy Torrence nipped Brown with a 3.713 - 330.47 to put a hold on low e.t. and top speed.

Mike Salinas - 'Scrappers Racing' - TF


As the session wound down to a conclusion, the three championship contenders, and one "pretender" (no offense, but Justin Ashley's only got a super-slim chance to win the crown, came out to try for the top qualifying spots and the all-important bonus points that go with the top four spots. Mike Salinas (pictured above), who's been on a bit of a tear recently and fought his way into contention with final appearances, including one win in the last two races, blasted out a booming 3.694 - 328.78 to stake his claim for the #1 qualifier. Then it was down to the top two in the standings, in what has become an almost certain top qualifying battle, between leader Steve Torrence and challenger Brittany Force. It didn't quite go to plan as Force lost traction before the 600' mark, while Torrence had his own problems, with the engine going sour on the top end, limiting him to a close, but not close enough, 3.698 - 317.05 for the second spot on the ladder.



The latest update as of November 9, 2021


Auto Club NHRA FINALS logo

Auto Club NHRA FINALS - Auto Club Raceway at Pomona - November 11 - 14

We've just received confirmation that our photographer, Bob Snyder, will be at the starting line at fabled Parker Avenue this weekend. It's the final event of a very interesting Camping World Drag Racing Series season that has seen postponements, cancellations, rescheduling, but has perservered and will finally reach the finish line on Sunday afternoon. How else can you describe a season that saw the Winternationals at the end of July, the March Meet at the end of May, in any terms other than strange?

The one constant from previous years is that the racing was intense, the racers showed up in more than respectable numbers, and the fans came back to fill - or at least partially fill - the grandstands. And we can look forward to an even better and more "normal" season in 2022. New teams, new drivers, new sponsors, a new (old) class, Factory Experimental, and more racing with more international, especially Canadian, competitors. And we plan to be there as often as possible to capture the sights and stories that make drag racing such an incredible sport.

Our Pomona coverage will begin Friday, continue through the weekend, and on into next week as we gather all the details and get the photo galleries organized. Stay tuned for all the updates throughout the weekend as they happen.

There are 425 entries for the Auto Club NHRA Finals.


The latest update as of November 7, 2021


Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series - Division 7

After a test 'n tune day (Thursday) and two days of qualifying, eliminations got underway for the Top Alcohol cars late yesterday afternoon at the final regional event of the 2021 season at Las Vegas. Qualifying in the 17-car Top Alcohol Dragster field was intense, with the second quickest bump spot of the season (regionally) at 5.341, with the first two alternates in the 5.30's, followed by the next four cars in the 5.40's. Stout indeed. While the Funny Car field wasn't as large, at 10 entries, the bump spot was very quick at 5.635, and the first alternate was close behindf at 5.678 (Brian Hough).

First round eliminations featured a couple of upsets, first in the dragsters, as #2 in national points, Jackie Fricke, bowed out after leading the field in qualifying with a very stout 5.188 - 275.39 pass. She slowed just a little and fell to hard running west coaster Casey Grisel by a 5.247 to 5.269 margin. One other lower qualified car, #5's Joey Severance, advanceed over #4 Kim Parker, but they were separated by only two thousandths in qualifying, so his 5.247 to 5.307 win couldn't be called an upset. Other first round winners were Shawn Cowie and Karen Stalba, with Stalba holding lane choice over Cowie in the semifinals. The other second round race, between Severance and Grisel saw lane choice decided by less than half a mph as both racers clocked identical e.t.'s.

In Funny Car, all the higher qualified cars advanced to the semifinals, with newly crowned national champion Greg Bellemeur advancing on a holeshot win over Chris Marshall despite a 5.644 to 5.593 deficit on the scoreboards. With last year's champion (Doug Gordon) qualifying on the other side of the ladder, and advancing over Nick Januik 5.550 to 5.576, a possible meeting in the final between the two heaviest hitters in the class could be in offing. However, Gordon will have to get past the low e.t. runner of the first round, Terry Ruckman, who advanced with a 5.545 over an ever-improving Hunter Jones. The low qualifier, Annie Whiteley who made three consecutive 5.50 passes in qualifying, slowed to a 5.716 - 211.2 that was enough to stay in front of a late-leaving, and losing, Ray Martin.

2:00 PM UPDATE

The points earning capability ended for Joey Severance as he fell to Casey Grisel in the second round by a 5.325 to 6.270 margin, after Severance was forced to pedal to get his shaking tires under control. That locked him into #9 position in the final standings, tied for the lowest finish he's had in the past eight years. Grisel advanced to his second final of the year (he won in Phoenix in September) to face Karen Stalba. She got past Shawn Cowie in the semifinals when he redlighted - by a bunch (-0.143) - and handed her the easy win. Amazingly, it was Cowie's first redlight in competition since the Texas FallNationals in 2017. Stalba does hold lane choice over Grisel in the final.

In the Funny Car semis, the expected happened as both Greg Bellemeur and Doug Gordon advanced to meet yet again for an event title. Bellemeur took a fairly easy over Annie Whiteley as she was a full tenth of a second behind at the green, despite running within three hundredths (5.544 to 5.511) of Bellemeur. The other pairing saw Terry Ruckman leave first by a few thousandths, but fall off his 5.50 pace and slow to a 5.682 clocking that was no match for Gordon's 5.566 pass. Bellemeur earned lane choice for the finals, but at Las Vegas, it's rarely a factor late in the day, especially at this time of year.

6:00 PM UPDATE

The dragster final was over almost before it began as Karen Stalba developed a massive fuel leak at the end of the burnout and was shut off. Beneficiary of her dilemna, Casey Grisel happily soloed for his second regional event win of the season, laying down a very good 5.309 - 273.88 for the win. On the Funny Car side, it was another incredibly tight contest between the two best blown alcohol funny cars in the country. They left with almost identical reaction times, favouring Bellemeur over Gordon by ONE thousandth of a second and at the other end it was Sean Bellemeur taking the winlight with a THREE thousandths quicker e.t. over the oh-so-close effort of Doug Gordon. The total win margin was just .004 second, or less than two feet. An incredible finish to another great race between those two fierce competitors and good friends. Next stop for both teams: Pomona and the Auto Club NHRA Finals.


The latest update as of November 5, 2021


After posting the updated Countdown to the Championship points for the PRO cars, it's time to put up the Top Ten standings for Top Alcohol Dragster and Funny Car. With one regional event, at Las Vegas this coming weekend, and one national event, at Pomona next weekend, left on the schedule it's not likely there will be any significant changes in the final points standings.

With both championships already awarded to Rachel Meyer and Sean Bellemeur, the only possible moves would be for Joey Severance to move up from his current #9 position to move into a tie with Jasmine Salinas for the #6 spot on the table in Dragster, and for Brian Hough to jump from #6 to #3 in the final Funny Car standings. Nick Januik could, with a good finish at Pomona, move into the #5 or #6 position in the final tally.

Fields with a yellow background indicate races that have been entered by the respective competitors.


Top Alcohol Dragster Top Ten standings as of November 1, 2021

As can be by the yellow highlights next to Shawn Cowie (for the Auto Club NHRA Finals) and Joey Severance for the West Regional at Las Vegas, they are the only two racers that can still gain points this season. Cowie can't move up from his #3 position, but Severance could, with an event win at Las Vegas, pass Duane Shields and Matthew Cummings and move into a tie with Jasmine Salinas for the #6 spot in the final standings. We're not sure how tiebreakers are decided in the Lucas Oil Series, but it may not come into play.

Top Alcohol Funny Car Top Ten standings as of November 1, 2021

Even though the national championship has gone to Sean Bellemeur, he can increase his point totals with a final round finish (winner or runnerup) at Pomona, while #2 Doug Gordon has run out of points earning capability. Lower down in the standings, Brian Hough has two chances to increase his totals (Las Vegas regional and Pomona national) and with back-to-back wins - not out of the realm of possibility - could overtake three racers to finish in the #3 position. One spot behind Hough is Nick Januik who could pass Hough (if Hough fails to gain any points) and Kris Hool to finish in the #5 spot if he can take the Auto Club Finals event title at Pomona.


The latest update as of November 4, 2021


We're still working on filling in all the captions to go with the photos from the Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals of last weekend. We'll keep working on it over the next few days and take a bit of a breather before the final event of the season starts at Pomona's Auto Club Raceway next Friday. This morning we're posting the latest points standings in the PRO classes in a format that shows how they've fared going into and during the countdown.

Note that the numbers with dark red backgrounds indicate racers that have been mathematically eliminated from championship contention, and light red backgrounds indicate those that will most likely be eliminated after the first qualifying session in Pomona. The maximum number of points that can be earned at the Auto Club NHRA Finals is 187. The breakdown is 10 points for making at least one qualifying attempt, up to 12 points for setting low e.t. of each qualifying session (3 sessions x 4 points each), 10 points for #1 qualifier, 30 points for qualifying, then 30 more points for each round win for a total of 187 possible.


Top Fuel Points Standings November 1, 2021

Going into the final race, Steve Torrence has a very strong 105 point lead over his closest pursuer, Brittany Force. On the virtual "bubble" is Mike Salinas, who, despite a late season charge which includes three final rounds in the last four races, will almost certainly be eliminated after the first qualifying session at Pomona. Below Salinas, everyone is already mathematically out of the chase.

Force has her work cut out for her, as even if she takes #1 qualifying spot, and sets low e.t. of all three qualifying sessions, can only gain a maximum of 19 points during qualifying on Torrence, and that's if he finishes qualifying in the bottom quarter of the field (#13 to #16). That would still leave her 86 points behind going into the first round, and would require Torrence to lose no later than the 2nd round of eliminations, and for Force to take the event win. Considering the Capco team's run of success, with three consecutive championships, that's a mighty tall order.


Funny Car Points Standings November 1, 2021

The situation in Funny Car is very different, as no less than four racers still have a chance for the championship. Below them are three more that will be mathematicaly eliminated before qualifying concludes. Leading that "heading for the exit" group are John Force, sitting 155 points behind leader Ron Capps. Below Force are Bob Tasca III (168 points behind), and Robert Hight (173 points behind). Once Capps makes a qualifying attempt, Hight will be gone, then if he qualifies (a VERY distinct possibility), both Tasca and Force will be out.

The racers still very much in the chase are led by Capps' closest challenger, and defending champion, Matt Hagan, who has fallen 58 points behind after consecutive first round losses at Bristol and Las Vegas. He can close the gap to just under 40 points during qualifying (see the Brittany Force scenario above), and that would leave him less than two round wins behind Capps. The eliminations ladder could be very critical for Capps and Hagan, as the earlier they meet, the better for Hagan. However, an early round exit for Capps could spell doom for his title hopes.

Directly below Hagan in the standings sits the success story of the 2021 Funny Car season, as Cruz Pedregon is having his best season since 2011, aided greatly by the acquisition of Tommy Johnson Jr.'s crew when his team was disbanded at the conclusion of the 2020 season. Pedregon's win in the latest event at Las Vegas has put him within 83 points of Capps, and in reach of the championship for the first time since 2008. The last racer with a chance to Capps is J.R. Todd who has been hot and cold during the countdown portion of the season, reaching a low ebb with a first round loss at Las Vegas. He's 138 points out of first and is a longshot - at best - to take the title, but over the years we've seen stranger things happen.


Pro Stock Points Standings November 1, 2021


Pro Stock Motorcycle Points Standings November 1, 2021


The latest update as of November 3, 2021


All the photos from the DODGE//SRT Nationals are now posted but the captions will take a while to complete. Keep refreshing/reloading this page as we will be adding text throughout the next few days as we wrap up our coverage from the second to last event on the 2021 Camping World Drag Racing Series. Later today we'll post the graphics detailing the Countdown to the Championship contenders (and those already eliminated from contention) as the racers prepare for Pomona.


The latest update as of November 1, 2021


Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals logo

The Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals concluded under sunny skies at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway yesterday afternoon. The Lucas Oil National Champions were crowned in the Top Alcohol (Dragster & Funny Car) classes, while all four of the professional categories will decide their world champions at the season-ending event, the Auto Club NHRA Finals in two weeks. Our hard working photographer, Bob Snyder has provided us with a cornucopia of photos from Las Vegas and we're trying to get them posted as soon as we can. The Sunday photos just arrived so we'll start today's posting with the first round of eliminations in the Factory Stock Showdown, then into Pro Mod, and the "Kings of the Sport" (Top Fuel). It's been a while since you've read that phrase, eh?


FACTORY STOCK SHOWDOWN - Eliminations Round One


Before the PRO driver introductions and the first round of eliminations for them, the Factory Stock Showdown qualifiers started the day's proceedings. After three qualifying sessions, the 21 entries were whittle down to the quickest 16 for eliminations, with the bump spot ending up at 8.049. The top eight cars went into the 7-second zone, and low qualifier Joseph Welch took the top rung on the ladder at 7.873 - 176.70. There's still a battle for parity in the class, as just four (of the six entered) Mopars made the field, but three of the top five were in Dodge Challeners, to show that there's a resurgence from that marque.

The fortunes of the Ford contingent continued to decline, as just one of the two "Blue Oval" Mustangs entered qualified, but that lone entry took the #3 spot on the ladder. The balance of the field were Camaros, with 11 of the 13 entered qualfiying. Their top dog was defending national champion Aaron Stanfield in the #2 spot on the qualifying sheet. Stanfield had clinched the season championship for the second time, running away with the title with three straight victories (including later in the day at Las Vegas) to win by 284 points over second place finisher David Barton, who won the first FSS championship in 2017, but has finished in second place in 2020 and this year.

Anthony Troyer (near lane) vs 
Jesse Alexandra (far lane) - FSS --- Doug Hamp (near lane) vs 
Joseph Welch (far lane) - FSS

(LEFT) The first pair out of the staging lanes were two Camaros and Jesse Alexandra (far lane) took the win with a quicker leave and a slighty better e.t. of 7.946 - 173.01 over the not quite enough 7.974 - 171.42 from the near lane's Anthony Troyer.

(RIGHT) Following up his low qualifying effort, Joseph Welch, (far lane) almost equalled it with a 7.877 at a new top speed of the meet 177.74 to overcome Doug Hamp's (near lane) four hundredths holeshot and 7.964 - 171.71 pass.

Ryan Priddy (near lane) vs 
Leah Pruett (far lane) - FSS --- Jason Dietsch (near lane) vs 
David Davies II (far lane) - FSS

(LEFT) Another far lane winner came in the next match, as Leah Pruett left first and improved on her qualifying numbers with a very good 7.932 - 174.77 to easily outdistance the early shutoff 10.179 - 92.86 of Ryan Priddy in the near lane.

(RIGHT) The lone Ford entry in the field, driven by Jason Dietsch, (far lane) laid down a very competitive 7.913 - 176.81 to overcome a small holeshot by David Davies II (near lane), who kept it close with a losing 8.015 - 174.39 clocking.

John Cerbone (near lane) vs 
Mark Pawuk (far lane) - FSS --- Dan Condon (near lane) vs 
Aaron Stanfield (far lane) - FSS

(LEFT) A "double" redlight came up in the next pair, as John Cerbone (near lane) left first with a -.205 reaction, even though it appears that Mark Pawuk (far lane) is the first to leave even though his -.098 leave was not the first infraction. Pawuk's winning time was 7.944 - 175.00, while Cerbone's was 8.436 - 169.64. We're not sure how it all went down but the photo doesn't seem to support the reaction times and elapsed times.

(RIGHT) Leaving first but finishing second was Dan Condon in the near lane, as his slight holeshot and 7.995 - 170.95 wasn't enough to hold off the far lane's Aaron Stanfield and his solid 7.900 - 173.16 timeslip.

David Barton (near lane) vs 
Scott Libersher (far lane) - FSS

The round was closed by a pair of Camaros battling, with David Barton (near lane) taking the win at both ends, leaving first by a few hundredths, then running 7.938 - 171.95 to cover Scott Libersher's good try 7.980 - 174.93 in the far lane.

It was quite a competitive round with 13 of the 16 cars running in the 7's, one in 8.0's, one in the 8.4's and only one car not making a full run (10.179 - 92.86). However, going into the quarterfinals, only top half qualifiers advanced, with lane choice in the second round going to the top four cars. So, while the gaps between the competitors were small, they were still evident as eliminations progressed.


PRO MOD - Eliminations Round One


Like their less powerful, heavier, and much slower brethren in Factory Stock, the Pro Mods finished their season at Las Vegas. Unlike in previous seasons, this year's champion, Jose Gonzalez clinched the title at the previous race in Dallas. Falling short in his quest for three consecutive championships was fan favourite Stevie "Fast' Jackson, who slipped to third place due to three first round exits in the final four races. Parity was closer than in past seasons, with all four power adders: turbo, nitrous, rootes blown, and centrifugal blown combinations all being relatively competitive.

The one worrying aspect for the class was a decline in participation as less than full fields became commonplace, evidenced by just 11 entries appearing at Las Vegas, and 14 in Bristol of all places, once a true hotbed for the outlaw cars that evolved into Pro Mod. In fairness, there were full fields at Charlotte and Indy, but on the other hand, just nine cars attended the mile-high race in Denver.


J.R. Gray - 'Gray Contracting' (near 
lane) vs Khalid alBalooshi - 'Bahrain 1' (far lane) - PM --- Stevie Jackson - 'Bahrain 1' (near 
lane) vs Dimtry Samorukov (far lane) - PM

(LEFT) Eliminations kicked off with a holeshot win for rookie Pro Mod driver J.R. Gray (near lane) as he left by nearly six hundredths on Khalid alBalooshi (far lane), then held on for the win by a close 5.800 - 247.38 to a quicker but later 5.787 - 248.16 for the veteran racer.

(RIGHT) The next pair saw the upset of the year as completely unheralded newcomer to NHRA racing, from Russia, Dmitry Samorukov, (far lane) came from behind to catch up to a broken Stevie Jackson (near lane). Jackson left first by a small margin and was leading until the engine died at half track, allowing Samorukov to take the win with a career best 6.146 - 233.16 (after qualifying at 6.251 - 232.47). Jackson coasted across with a 6.604 - 158.30 as his season ended.

Mike Castellana - 'AAP' - PM --- Brandon Snider - 'J&A Services' (near 
lane) vs Jim Whiteley - 'J&A Services' (far lane) - PM

(LEFT) The low qualifier, at 5.793 - 245.18 from New York, Mike Castellana, came out next and took his bye run due to the 11-car field. Mike showed everyone that he meant business, improving his low e.t. mark to a 5.773 - 247.97 to advance to the second round and lane choice over J.R. Gray.

(RIGHT) Two J&A Services team-mates were the next pair and team owner Jim Whiteley (far lane) lost at both ends of the track, leaving second and seeing his very good 5.846 - 244.60 eclipsed by Brandon Snider's (near lane) winning 5.798 - 247.20 as the parade of 5.70 passes continued.

Doug Winters - 'Stinar' (near lane) 
vs Mike Salinas - 'Scrappers Racing' (far lane) - PM --- Lyle Barnett - 'Elite Performance' 
(near lane) vs Justin Bond - 'Bahrain 1' (far lane) - PM

(LEFT) Jumping out of his Top Fuel car (for a few minutes) and into his Pro Mod was Mike Salinas (far lane) who cut a tremendous light (.014 reaction) and used his 5.789 - 246.98 to send the unique Chevelle-bodied entry of Doug Winters (near lane) back to the trailer despite a competitive 5.849 - 243.19 pass for Winters.

(RIGHT) Giving away his last chance to hang on to second place in the points standings was Canadian (Mission, BC) Justin Bond (far lane) who redlighted by just two thousandths and threw away a so-so 6.060 - 237.42, as underdog Lyle Barnett (near lane) joined the "70 Club" with a great 5.798 e.t. coupled with a booming top end charge of 253.71 to set top speed of the meet. Barnett was the only driver to hit the 250 mph mark in qualifying and continued to do so right through eliminations with four consecutive 253 mph runs enroute to his second event win of the season.


Pre-Race Ceremonies


pre-race Track Walk --- (left to right) Brittany Force, 
Alexis DeJoria, Joe Costello

Following the obligatory track walk, which was in hiatus for more than a year due to you-know-what, the fans took the opportunity to walk down half of the four wide Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on the left, while on the right, announcer Joe Costello got to hang out with the two low qualifiers, Brittany Force on the left, and Alexis DeJoria on the right.


Dylan Cromwell Memorial

Before the nitro eliminations started, there was a heartfelt tribute in memory of one of Jim Head and Blake Alexander's crewman, a 23-year young member of the team who tragically passed in a highway crash while driving the team's transporter enroute to the event. He was the innocent victim of an out-of-control truck coming from the other direction and in an instant, his life was ended. Everyone in the drag racing community: fans, racers, officials were all shocked and deeply saddened by his death.


TOP FUEL - Eliminations Round One


Going into the first round, season-long points leader Steve Torrence had seen his 73-point lead shrink by eight points during qualifying, but he still held a comfortable margin over closest pursuer Brittany Force as she notched her 12th low qualifier award of the season, and had the quickest car going into eliminations. The 3rd (Justin Ashley) and 4th (Mike Salinas) place drivers in the standings were already on very thin ice as their championship hopes were fading quickly, while everyone below them was already mathematically eliminated from contention.

Despite her dominance in qualifying, Force had only advanced to one final round in the first five races of the countdown, losing to Josh Hart in that event, while Torrence had been in three straight finals, including one win, leading up to Las Vegas. Looking at his 2021 season record, Steve Torrence's nine wins and three runnerups made Force's one win and four runnerups look rather pale by comparison. Race day consistency and reaction times have been the key to Torrence's success and likewise, the key to Brittany's relative lack of success. Could today be the event where she and her crew could rise to the occasion and close the points gap enough to have a chance for the championship at Pomona?


Clay Millican - 'Parts Plus' (near 
lane) vs Alex Laughlin - 'Havoline' (far lane) - TF --- Billy Torrence - 'Capco Contractors' 
(near lane) vs Shawn Langdon - 'CMR Roofing' (far lane) - TF

(LEFT) Only two cars advanced from the bottom half of the field and the first one came in the first pair as Clay Millican (near lane) was building a good lead over Alex Laughlin (far lane), courtesy of a much better light and very good early numbers, before the engine came undone late in the run, and he coasted across the line at 3.913 - 247.61. Taking the win, also with an early shutoff, was Laughlin's 3.835 - 290.69 effort.

(RIGHT) "Captain Capco" Billy Torrence (near lane) faced off against Shawn Langdon, wearing new colours in the far lane and took what had to be one of the tightest decisions of the season - by exactly ONE inch. He was nearly half a tenth late off the line but drove around Langdon's holeshot aided 3.781 - 312.21 with a very good 3.738 - 325.53 for the incredibly close win.

Brittany Force - 'Monster Energy' 
(near lane) vs Troy Buff - 'BME' (far lane) - TF --- Justin Ashley - 'Vita-C Shot' (near 
lane) vs Cameron Ferre - 'EMPI' (far lane) - TF

(LEFT) Facing the pressure of having to win rounds or see her championship hopes disappear, Brittany Force (near lane) dropped a bomb on Troy Buff (far lane), pounding out a new low e.t. of the meet with a fantastic 3.670 - 330.80 pass to move into the second round. Buff gave it a good fight, with his best e.t. of the weekend, a 3.914 - 299.60 to show that the Bill Miller team could still compete with the big guns.

(RIGHT) Still in the hunt for the season championship, but just barely, was Justin Ashley (near lane) who needed to win the event to have even a faint hope of catching the points leader. Ashley did his job and laid down a solid 3.734 - 326.71 to easily erase the far lane Cameron Ferre's up-in-smoke 9-second pass. Ferre ran well in qualifying, clocking back-to-back low 3.80's to qualify solidly, but it looks like the Paton team went "over center" in the first round, in trying to make up the performance deficit.

Mike Salinas - 'Scrappers Racing' 
(near lane) vs Doug Kalitta - 'MAC Tools' (far lane) - TF --- Steve Torrence - 'Capco Contractors' 
(near lane) vs Jim Maroney - 'American FlowTech' (far lane) - TF

(LEFT) Another racer feeling the pressure to win today was Mike Salinas (near lane) and he showed the Alan Johnson tuned team was up to the challenge as he took out Doug Kalitta (far lane) in a close race by barely half a car length. Salinas left first by a few thousandths and outran Kalitta's strong 3.735 - 323.43 with a slightly better 3.726 - 323.97 clocking for the win.

(RIGHT) The next pairing had to be considered a possible "walk over" for Steve Torrence (near lane) as he qualified 12 spots ahead of opponent Jim Maroney. Torrence left second, by 15 thousandths, but finished first by a bunch as Maroney ran into trouble at half track and fireballed the engine, slowing to a 4.119 - 227.38 time, while Torrence sped by with a 3.751 - 325.61 for the win.

Josh Hart - 'R+L Carriers' (near lane) 
vs Tripp Tatum - 'TT Racing' (far lane) - TF --- Antron Brown - 'Matco Tools' (near 
lane) vs Leah Pruett - 'Direct Connection' (far lane) - TF

(LEFT) Rookie of The Year contender Josh Hart (near lane) looked to rebound from a first round loss in Bristol, after a win at Charlotte and semifinal finishes at the next two races, but he ran into a very tough competitor in Tripp Tatum (far lane). Running what has been called a "Capco clone", Tatum, in only his third race of the season, picked up a bunch on his good 3.773 qualifying time and put down a 3.711 at a best speed of the round 331.61 to turn on the winlight. Hart fell off a bit from his 3.745 qualifier and trailed with a 3.801 - 323.19 as he fell in the first round for the second race in a row.

(RIGHT) Finishing the round were the usual #8 versus #9 qualifiers, and the #9 car, Leah Pruett (far lane) did so with a solid 3.752 - 318.32 pass over an engine exploding Antron Brown in the near lane, as he pedaled once to try to calm down the tires and it failed - big time - as he blew the engine and slowed to a losing 4.967 - 155.11 timeslip.

In the second round, lane choice goes to Brittany Force over Leah Pruett, Tripp Tatum over Steve Torrence (hmmm....), Justin Ashley over Alex Laughlin, and Mike Salinas over Billy Torrence.


FUNNY CAR - Eliminations Round One


A much tighter race for the championship was developing in Funny Car, as coming into the event, Ron Capps was just ONE point in front of defending champion Matt Hagan. Sitting in third place was J.R. Todd, but with an 83-point deficit, his task to climb back into contention was indeed a daunting one. Sitting on the virtual bubble was #4 in the points, John Force and he needed nothing less than an event win to move back within striking distance of the leaders. The tension was running high as the first pair came out from under the BIG "The Strip" sign beside the control tower.


Robert Hight - 'Auto Club' (near 
lane) vs Steven Densham - 'Mid-West' (far lane) - FC --- Alexis Dejoria - 'Bandero Tequila' 
(near lane) vs Jeff Diehl - 'RATT' (far lane) - FC

(LEFT) On paper this should have been a somewhat easy win for Robert Hight (near lane), but his opponent Steven Densham (far lane), a second generation nitro funny car racer, could not be taken lightly. The Densham team had put down back-to-back 4.059 and 4.069 qualifying runs on Saturday and were showing some real consistency going into eliminations. That continued as Densham left first by a few hundredths and put down a very creditable 4.043 - 300.33 pass in what was an ultimately losing cause. Overcoming his starting line disadvantage, Hight took a two car length victory with an excellent 3.930 - 327.27 to send Densham home early.

(RIGHT) The biggest mismatch of the round had to be this next pair, as low qualifier Alexis DeJoria, in the near lane, faced off against off against Jeff "The Surfer" Diehl (far lane). Diehl had qualified with a decent 4.116 pass, and kept pace with DeJoria to the 330' clocks before seeing the writing on the wall, and shutting off to a 4.278 - 220.80 losing pass. DeJoria was a "little" late on the launch (.167 to .127), but got things moving quickly, to the tune of a 3.925 - 324.51 to keep the ball rolling after her win at Bristol.

John Force - 'Peak' (near lane) 
vs Chris Morel - 'Little City Charger' (far lane) - FC --- J.R. Todd - 'DHL' (near lane) vs 
Paul Lee - 'Silver State' (far lane) - FC

(LEFT) Another "no doubt" race in the offing? Not so quick, as (almost) local Chris Morel (far lane), in his supremely retro green metalflake "Little City Charger" from Reno, set jaws a-dropping when the winlight came on in his lane over prohibitive favourite John "Brute" Force. It wasn't a thing of beauty, as both racers ran into trouble, with Force having his earlier, as the engine quit before the 330' timing blocks, while Morel made it to half track before his engine quit. The verdit: Chris Morel: 5.749 - 122.13 and John Force 8.479 - 73.28 as he coasted into elimination from the championship battle.

(RIGHT) Next up was J.R. Todd (near lane) and he faced a nearly do-or-die situation, needing lots of winlights to stay in contention for the title. However, Paul Lee, in the far lane, found the tuneup he'd been missing in qualifying and laid down a big set of numbers at 3.921 - 328.94 to send Todd packing. It nearly came undone on the launch for Lee as his .005 light was waaaay too close to a red bulb. Todd was behind the 8-ball early and when the tires started smoking, that was it for his chances as he coasted to a losing 4.960 - 155.76 to put his championship hopes on the critical list.

Matt Hagan - 'Direct Connection' 
(near lane) vs Chad Green - 'Bond-Coat' (far lane) - FC --- Bob Tasca III - 'Motorcraft' (near 
lane) vs Bobby Bode - 'Ar-Bee' (far lane) - FC

(LEFT) Moving into the major contenders next, Matt Hagan (near lane) in his new "Direct Connection" livery looked to advance over Chad Green in the far lane. Knowing that Green was no slouch, with an ex-Tim Wilkerson car and Dan Wilkerson tuning, Hagan had his work cut out for him, despite holding a tenth and a half e.t. advantage based on qualifying times. Green did his job, cranking out a very respectable 4.009 - 321.12 that was just enough to overcome Hagan's holeshot and turn on the winlight over Hagan's struggling 4.087 - 316.15, courtesy of a dropped cylinder.

That one dropped cylinder might turn out to be just enough to cost Matt Hagan a repeat championship depending on how the event progresses for the other racers battling for the world championship.

(RIGHT) There was less pressure in this next pairing as Bob Tasca III (near lane) was pretty much out of the points chase, but he wanted to finish the season strong for Motorcraft and he spent only 3.950 seconds (with a big speed of 329.58) dispatching young Bobby Bode in the far lane. Bode gave Tasca a race, carding a 4.072 - 310.84 with a car that ran 4.008 on his last qualifying run after two earlier up-in-smoke efforts.

Cruz Pedregon - 'Snap-On' (near lane) 
vs Tony Jurado - 'Capitol Punishment' (far lane) - FC --- Ron Capps - 'Pennzoil' (near lane) 
vs Tim Wilkerson - 'Levi, Ray & Shoup' (far lane) - FC

(LEFT) Coming on stronger as the season progressed with his new ex-Tommy Johnson crew, Cruz Pedregon (near lane), continued to move up the points table, ringing up round wins on a regular basis through the countdown with nine rounds won in the first five races. He continued that string here with a solid first round effort at 3.947 - 295.08 that was not lacking in drama as he drifted towards the centerline throughout the run and narrowly missed taking out the finish time timing blocks. He held the car steady and turned on the winlight as opponent Tony Jurado (far lane) fell short with a very good 4.032 - 317.19 clocking.

The story didn't end there as Jurado went through the shutdown, up the hill, and into the sandtrap without any chutes and finally came to a stop, spinning the car sideways in the trap for a dramatic end to what had been a very successful weekend. In qualifying, Jurado followed up his career best 3.986 - 318.17 in the first session with 4.039 - 316.18 and 4.018 - 318.99 timeslips that showed he was rapidly becoming a competitor to be reckoned with.

(RIGHT) The round ended with the obligatory #8 versus #9 matchup and this one certainly wasn't lacking for interest, with points leader Ron Capps having to fight his way through a virtual minefield of tough competition after qualifying in an unaccustomed middle of the pack (#8) position on the ladder. His opposition in this round, Tim Wilkerson, in the far lane, was ready to give Capps everything he could handle, leaving first by .013 and holding the lead for a few hundred feet before Capps took it back and held it to the finish line. Capps ran low e.t. of the round at 3.915 - 323.74 to barely edge out Wilkerson's faster but slower 3.947 - 330.72 run that fell just half a car length short at the stripe.

The win by Capps gave him lane choice over Alexis DeJoria in the second round, while Cruz Pedregon earned his choice over Chris Morel, Paul Lee over Bob Tasca III, and Robert Hight over Chad Green. Obviously the big match of that round had to be Capps vs DeJoria, with Capps looking to open a serious gap over second place Matt Hagan.


TOP ALCOHOL - Eliminations Round Three


Chris Marshall - 'Disturbed Racing' 
(near lane) vs Brian Hough - 'Cascade Motor Coach' (far lane) - TA/FC --- Sean Bellemeur - 'Hussey Performance' 
(near lane) vs Bob McCosh - 'McCosh Chevrolet' (far lane) - TA/FC

(LEFT) Into the semifinals in Top Alcohol, with the Funny Cars up first, the first match was an all-Oregon affair, as Chris Marshall (near lane) took on Brian Hough (far lane). While Marshall had only run two regional and one national events before this race, his opponent, Hough, had been chasing points all over the country this year with the help of two-time former champion Jonnie Lindberg. Marshall qualified near the top of the field with a very strong 5.504 and advanced through the first two rounds with solid runs, while Hough was further back in the #7 spot on the ladder, but showed consistency with a string of 5.5-second passes coming into this round. It was all over on the starting line as Marshall redlighted (-.075) and threw away a very good 5.566 - 264.65 pass, while Hough ran into heavy tire shake and coasted through at 9.754 - 77.88 to move into the final.

(RIGHT The other racer to reach that final round was decided in an incredibly close race between two of the top three racers in the championship battle. Fighting hard to retake the championship from Doug Gordon was Sean Bellemeur in the near lane, as Bob McCosh (far lane) opposed him. The two drivers left nearly together with Bellemeur holding only a six thousandths of a second advantage on the green, and it stayed that way all the way to the 1320' mark. McCosh ran an excellent 5.503 - 267.11 that fell barely a foot short of Bellemeur's fractionally slower 5.506 - 265.80 for a true win margin of just three thousandths of a second.

With the win, Bellemeur moved into a tie with Gordon for the national championship, and lane choice in the final against Brian Hough. With one more event left (Pomona) to improve his points total, even if Bellemeur fell to Hough in the final here, he would only have to advance to the final round at Pomona to take his third Top Alcohol Funny Car championship in the last four years.

Kim Parker - 'Carstar' (near lane) 
vs Rachel Meyer - 'NTK' (far lane) - A/FD --- Julie Nataas - 'OTG' (near lane) 
vs Jackie Fricke - 'Finke Equipment' (far lane) - A/FD

(LEFT) With her points earning capabilities already exhausted, all Rachel Meyer (far lane) could do is stop her challenger, Jackie Fricke, in the final round to take her first national championship. However, to do that, she had to get past Kim Parker in the near lane, and that wasn't going to be an easy task. Parker had qualified strongly in the #4 spot in the field with a very good 5.249 - 265.17 and improved those numbers to 5.222 - 271.73 in the second round to set up the match, and hold lane choice against Meyer. Rachel left first by a few hundredths and took command early as Parker was only running on seven cylinders. The final verdict was Meyer with a 5.265 - 280.95 for the win and Parker with a 5.448 - 261.93 in a losing effort.

(RIGHT The other half of the all-female semifinal saw championship challenger Jackie Fricke (far lane) having to win to keep her hopes of a championship alive. She faced a formidable task in ftaking on the other Meyer Racing entry, of Julie Nataas, in the near lane, but was up to the task with a 5.234 - 268.97 to overcome Nataas' holeshot and solid 5.302 - 275.71 pass that left Nataas barely half a car length short at the finish line. Fricke's better e.t. also earned her lane choice in the winner-take-all final round. An incredible finish to the championship chase was in the offing with intense pressure on both teams.


TOP FUEL - Eliminations Round Two


Justin Ashley - 'Vita-C Shot' 
(near lane) vs Alex Laughlin - 'Havoline' (far lane) - TF --- Brittany Force - 'Monster Energy' 
(near lane) vs Leah Pruett - 'Direct Connection' (far lane) - TF

(LEFT) Coming into this event on a bit of a roll, Justin Ashley (near lane) was looking to finish his sophomore season with a string of late-round finishes, and started strongly with a #3 qualifying spot and a solid 3.734 in the first round. He kept up that pace with a great 3.739 - 328.94 to easily advance to the semi-finals, leaving Alex Laughlin (far lane) far behind at the stripe as the Scott Palmer car dropped cylinders and slowed to a 4.020 - 233.60 for the loss.

(RIGHT) The race between Leah Pruett (far lane) and low qualifier Brittany Force was over before it began as Pruett double-stepped the throttle, initiating a -.210 redlight, while Force also left before the green with an -.069 reaction, but received the automatic win due to Pruett's earlier infraction. The "Direct Connection" dragster shutoff and coasted to an 8-second clocking, while Ms. Force kept the pedal down to record a 3.745 - 330.39 to advance and set up a match with the winner of the next pairing.

Mike Salinas - 'Scrappers Racing' 
(near lane) vs Billy Torrence - 'Capco Contractors' (far lane) - TF --- Steve Torrence - 'Capco Contractors' 
(near lane) vs Tripp Tatum - 'TT Racing' (far lane) - TF

(LEFT) This race featured two racers who qualified with identical 3.715 e.t.'s, with Mike Salinas (near lane) taking the higher position with a better speed. His oponnent in this round, Billy Torrence (far lane) came in running strongly and kept the pressure on Salinas, clocking a very good 3.741 - 330.39 pass that fell less than a half car length behind Salinas' even better 3.723 - 330.63 times. Note the BIG speeds for both racers and Force in the previous pairing. Obviously track and atmospheric conditions were cooperating with the tuners leading to some seriously big numbers.

(RIGHT) Closing the round was the points leader, and defending world champion, Steve Torrence as he looked to keep the winlights coming as he moved inexorably in the direction of a fourth consecutive championship. He faced a serious roadblock in this round however, as Tripp Tatum III had clocked career best numbers in the first round and held lane choice into this encounter. Torrence didn't waste any time at the starting line, leaving first by half a tenth, then running away when Tatum shut off at the 660' mark, and Torrence pounded out a 3.736 - 328.62 for the win. That gave him lane choice - by just three thousandths - over Justin Ashley in the semifinal round.


FUNNY CAR - Eliminations Round Two


Robert Hight - 'Auto Club' (near lane) 
vs Chad Green - 'Bond-Coat' (far lane) - FC --- Bob Tasca - 'Motorcraft' (near lane) 
vs Paul Lee - 'Silver State' (far lane) - FC

(LEFT) With his championship hopes now a distant memory, Robert Hight (near lane) was looking for a strong finish to an otherwise medicore season. Facing the second "Team Wilkerson" car driven by Chad Green (ar lane), who was certainly no pushover despite his relative lack of seat time in a nitro Funny Car, it was shaping up to be a competitive race. Hight left first and held the lead all the way with his best of the weekend 3.909 - 330.63 to hold off the very good try of Green, who tripped the timers with a competitive 3.981 - 321.88, both career bests for Green.

(RIGHT) After a dismal start to the countdown section of the section with consecutive first round losses, Bob Tasca III had rebounded with a runnerup finish at St. Louis and back-to-back semifinals at the next two events coming into Vegas. He needed more round wins to stay in championship contention, and came into this round facing a tough task, lacking lane choice against Paul Lee (far lane). But Tasca did what he had to, leaving first and pulling away to an easy win with a 3.945 e.t. and a booming top end speed of 330.07 mph. Lee stayed in the chase and held a brief early lead until losing traction and shutting off to a 4.246 - 223.25 in the loss.

Ron Capps - 'Pennzoil' (near lane) 
vs Alexis DeJoria - 'Bandero Tequila' (far lane) - FC --- Cruz Pedregon - 'Snap-On' (near lane) 
vs Chris Morel - 'Little City Charger' (far lane) - FC

(LEFT) Qualifying in the top spot and hoping to keep her late season charge going, Akexis DeJoria (far lane) faced a tough matchup with points leader Ron Capps (near lane). DeJoria was late on the lights (.122 to .078) and couldn't overcome that deficit with her decent, but losing, 3.998 - 315.05 against the low e.t. and top speed of the meet by Capps, as he lit up the scoreboards - BIG TIME - with a 3.884 - 332.10 to cruise into the semifinals with lane choice over Robert Hight.

(RIGHT) The final pair of the round was a seriously David vs Goliath battle, as unheralded Chris Morel, making only his fifth start in Funny Car, and notching a major first round upset win over John Force, had to face veteran Cruz Pedregon. Morel, in the far lane, didn't give up easily as he put down a creditable 4.193 - 281.19 but was easily outclassed by Pedregon's (near lane) second best of the round 3.903 - 324.20 winning run. That gave him lane choice by a few thousandths over Tasca in the semifinal and kept him solidly in the championship hunt.



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